Rains ease bushfire threat

Australia:  Rains ease bushfire threat 

7 January 2002

Source and Copyright: The Sydney Morning Herald

Victorian and South Australian firefighters will start going home from NSW today as the state begins cautiously downgrading its firefighting efforts. Overnight rains have helped firefighting efforts in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, but fires raging in the Shoalhaven, on the NSW south coast, remain a top priority for fire crews. Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg today said some interstate firefighters had been stood down from duty and would begin returning home. “The rain probably hasn’t meant that anyone can now pack up tools and go home,” Mr Koperberg told reporters today. “Having said that, we are demobilising our colleagues from Victoria and South Australia. They will be progressively making their way home depending upon the transport logistics being able to be arranged today. “The other states are remaining for at least another 48 hours and we’ll assess the position over that 48 hours.” Mr Koperberg said mopping up in areas affected by heavy rain was the next phase of operation. Meanwhile, hot, windy weather is predicted to return to Sydney this afternoon with much-needed rain clouds set to disappear. The clouds brought up to 30mm of rain overnight, dampening some NSW bushfires in the Blue Mountains, Richmond and Wollongong areas. But Bureau of Meteorology spokeswoman Clare Richards said the clouds would clear this afternoon. Temperatures would reach up to 37 degrees on the coast and 38 inland, she said. “There’s a strong wind warning for coastal waters,” Ms Richards said. “We will get fresh and gusty winds all up the coast.” Winds would be dry north-westerlies, she said. There was some good news for the firefighting efforts, with humidity expected to remain high. It was around 90 per cent mid-morning. “It will be gradually drying out over the next couple of days,” she said. No further rain was expected for a few days, she said. Two additional firefighting helitankers arrived in Sydney this morning and will soon be assembled in a hangar at the airport. The Russian freight plane carrying the two water-bombing helitankers – dubbed The Incredible Hulk and Georgia Peach – landed at Sydney Airport at 9.30am (AEDT). They were being towed to hangar 96 to be unpacked and assembled, a Qantas spokeswoman said. The two massive choppers could join Elvis the helitanker in battling the NSW bushfires as early as this afternoon. But NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Phil Koperberg earlier cautiously predicted they would be in the air by tomorrow. The Antonov freighter which delivered them had taken off from Oregon’s Rogue Valley International Airport early yesterday morning. AAP


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