Australia — Firefighters battling a resurgent blaze on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island are bracing themselves for an overnight weather change that could spark a state of emergency.
Temperatures soaring into the high 30sC and strong wind gusts have fuelled the fire in the island’s Flinders Chase National Park which broke containment lines late yesterday.
Police and the Country Fire Services (CFS) have evacuated residents near the national park ahead of a weather change late today while firefighters began back burning northwest of the blaze.
The Rocky River visitor information centre was also threatened today with authorities estimating at least a third of the 120,000ha park has been burnt.
CFS chief officer Euan Ferguson said a “finger of fire” that crossed the western front had sparked the latest emergency as conditions worsened.
He said it was critical that backburning succeeded in maintaining the fronts overnight to avoid having to declare a state of emergency.
“We have identified a number of trigger points,” Mr Ferguson said.
“When those trigger points are reached that may lead to discussions that may end up in some form of declaration.”
Mr Ferguson said during the day the wind had shifted dramatically to “all quarters of the compass”.
The bureau of meteorology has predicted an easing of conditions tomorrow but Mr Ferguson said the fire authorities remained concerned.
“If the wind change eases in the late evening or overnight that will be in favour of the fire fighters but if it comes through in a vigorous fashion in the mid to late afternoon that will be very difficult,” he said.
The fires have so far claimed one life, with the body of a man who had been assisting firefighters found in his burnt out truck near Vivonne Bay, on the island’s south coast last week.
Three fires are still burning on the island after lightning sparked 12 outbreaks more than a week ago but Mr Ferguson said two of the them in the centre and north-western areas had been brought under control.
Volunteers from five states are now involved in the island emergency with firefighters from Western Australia joining colleagues from SA, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
“This is probably one of the largest incident management teams that we have ever seen in South Australia and for one of the longest periods,” Mr Ferguson said.