Bemboka bushfire downgraded to lower alert level

UPDATE, 4.40pm:

An initial assessment of damage has confirmed the loss of two houses and four outbuildings, the RFS reported in an alert sent to media outlets just after 4.30pm Thursday.

NSW RFS Building Impact Assessment Teams confirmed the damage as an “initial assessment” with a more full accounting to come later.

At this stage it’s unknown what structures or houses have been lost in the fire, or whether they were occupied, but there has been no report of any injury or loss of life.

UPDATE, 4PM: 

The bushfire that started off Yankees Gap Rd has been downgraded to an advice alert level.   

The NSW RFS advise local residents should monitor conditions in their area and check and follow their Bush Fire Survival Plan.

If you do not have a plan, decide what you will do if the situation changes. Leaving early is your safest option.

About 4pm, north easterly wind speeds were at 15km/h and wind gusts were at 19km/h. 

2pm: The Rural Fire Service says it is investigating reports of property damage caused by the continuing fire situation near Bemboka, but could not confirm anything as yet.

RFS Far South Coast spokesman Marty Webster said around 66 firefighters are still on the job and protecting property, utilising 29 trucks and pumpers, a handful of heavy plant equipment like bulldozers, and four aircraft conducting a variety of water bombing and aerial observation.

“There are no new threats at this stage and the fire is not progressing beyond where we forecast it was happening,” Mr Webster said around 2pm Thursday.

Much of the fire has been in the bushland of Wadbilliga National Park and relatively inaccessible to firefighters.

“A large majority of the fire is untracked so that eye in the sky is so valuable,” Mr Webster said.

“We’re having to build large containment lines and if conditions improve we will look for opportunities to backburn, but that is not possible in the current conditions.”

Mr Webster said the circumstances around the fire will be investigated but it’s believed it came off private property into the national park.

The fire remains at a Watch and Act alert level, with Mr Webster saying residents should continue to enact their bushfire survival plan.

“For those people with plans in place, continue to prepare your properties as this fire will be around for some time,” he said.

“If you choose to stay and defend your property, test your equipment, make sure your pumps work and if you have a ladder make sure you’ve got it back from your neighbour,” he added with a wry chuckle.

While it is not currently an emergency situation requiring evacuations, Mr Webster also had vital tips for those who choose to relocate.

“Be sure to take your mobile phones and chargers for those phones, items to confirm your identity and any medication required – those are things people often overlook.

“And another thing I’d say is gather your family photos – you wouldn’t believe the number of times we see people put themselves in harm’s way trying to retrieve photos.

“While you have the time and a window of opportunity get busy, use the time appropriately.”

12PM: The bushfire that started near Bemboka returned to a watch and act alert level by midday on Thursday, August 16, after being downgraded overnight.  

By 11.30am, the out of control bushfire that began at Yankees Gap Rd the day before and spread into Wadbilliga National Park had covered over 3300ha. 

NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd said the alert level was raised due to winds picking up during the morning. 

He said the RFS had been liaising with the majority of residents close to the fire over the last 24 hours and they would be aware of the increased levels of activity due to the increasing winds. 

While they were not dealing with as strong winds as there there were on Wednesday, the fire was still burning close to rural properties and crews will be working with residents during the day. 

“It will take a significant effort to bring the fire under control,” Inspector Shepherd said. 

Wind gusts reached a speed of 33km/h on Wednesday morning as well as speeds of 24km/h, mainly in a south westerly direction. 

In the morning, trucks fighting the blaze numbered 14 from RFS, four from Fire and Rescue NSW and four from National Parks and Wildlife Service, with about 80 firefighters in the area. 

Inspector Shepherd said the RFS had received unconfirmed reports of possible losses of houses or sheds, but confirmed losses would be identified later on Thursday. 

He said there was the potential for crews to be fighting the fire for a number of days or weeks. 

The RFS’s website defines a watch and act alert level as: “There is a heightened level of threat. Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.”

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