Australia — THE SA Country Fire Service believes it is winning the battle against bushfires as a spate of fires have broken out in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
FA strong CFS effort overnight has reduced the immediate threat to Wilmington from the Flinders Ranges fire. The fire poses no immediate threat to life or property but people in the area are advised to remain vigilant.
The fire continues to burn out of control on other fronts and CFS personnel are preparing for hot and blustery conditions today.
Weather conditions in SA today are expected to worsen with winds from the east-north-east of about 35 km/h gusting up to 50 km/h and temperatures in the mid 30s. The winds are expected to ease by mid afternoon, down to 10-20km/h.
Victorian firefighters were also battling to control a blaze last night in the Grampians before Saturday, when high temperatures and windy conditions could revive the inferno.
The bushfire, believed to have been started by lightning, was contained yesterday afternoon after a lengthy battle with 150 firefighters and water-bombing aircraft in which is claimed 230ha of forest.
There was never any risk to the public as the fire burnt through 230 hectares of remote bushland in the far southwest corner of the popular tourist area.
But the fire conitnued to billow huge amounts of smoke across a wide swath of Victoria.
In Queensland, fire investigators have warned of a marked rise in the number of suspected arson attacks with 23 serious fires in the past month.
During December and the start of this month seven fires were lit in a devastating 48-hour period.
An analysis by The Courier-Mail showed 23 fires throughout Queensland in the past month were considered serious and involved damage to homes and businesses.
Meanwhile, the SA blaze already has blackened 5300ha of scrubland and come within metres of a Woolundunga home, northwest of Wilmington.
The fire, burning through grassland between Port Augusta and Wilmington since noon on Wednesday, threatened homes for the first time yesterday and although easing conditions allowed firefighters to make inroads last night, the changing weather still presents a threat .
The CFS expects Wilmington, a town of about 200 people, and even Melrose, 23km to the south, will come under threat today and tomorrow as winds switch around to blow from the north .
Crews battled the fire amid changing winds today as it broke containment lines at least three times and intensified along the rough terrain.
CFS deputy chief officer Andrew Lawson said the predicted southwesterly-to-northwesterly wind change was worrying.
He said about five homes were in the path of the fire, but all residents in the region should implement their bushfire survival plans.
“Every area around this fire is potentially under threat over coming days,” he said.
“It’s not moving quickly … not as we would know a fast-moving fire.”
More than 100 firefighters, 17 tankers and five water bombers were used to protect properties – including that of the Battersby family at Woolundunga – as crews struggled with limited access to the ranges.
About 3pm, the flames came within metres of Michael Battersby’s home, where he lives with wife Catherine and daughters Rachael and Tarryn, and he could only watch as fire crews narrowly stopped the fire from damaging buildings on his property.
Mr Battersby said it was the worst bushfire he had seen near his home.
“We’ve had some bad fires but not threatening the house,” he said.
Another Woolundunga local, Michael Voigt, said the wind had been “swirling” all day.
Heavy smoke cover also hindered efforts, with fire-bombers hampered by poor visibility.
The CFS late yesterday issued emergency warnings to families in the area and held a public information meeting last night.
Police have closed Horrocks Pass Rd between the Wilmington Rd intersection and Wilmington, Gunyah Rd from the Quorn-to-Wilmington road and Nectar Brook Rd to traffic from National Highway One.
The Environment Department closed Mount Brown Conservation Park.
Meanwhile, police are looking for a firebug following a series of suspicious fires in the Blewitt Springs and McLaren Flat area.
The latest fire burned about 5ha of scrub near Chapel Hill Rd and needed 60 firefighters, with support from fire-bombing aircraft, to contain it.
Authorities have warned residents in the area to check their properties for any fires and embers, particularly in roof spaces, under decks and raised floors, and in gutters.
People should take care in the fire area over the next few days.