Adelaide Hills blaze still threatens but danger eases in Vic

Adelaide Hills blaze still threatens but danger eases in Vic

04 January 2015

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Australia — 8.43pm: TWO people feared missing have been found after seeking refuge from a devastating bushfire burning through the Adelaide Hills for a third day.

South Australia Police say a Cudlee Creek woman and an elderly Kersbrook man were found safe and well tonight.

It is still unsafe to travel in fire-affected areas, and police have arrested a 45-year-old Fairview Park man at Tea Tree Gully for trying to breach road blocks.

Meanwhile in Western Australia, a slow-moving fire in Perth’s southeast may threaten homes. The WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services has issued a watch and act warning for Araluen Estate in Roleystone in the City of Armadale. “There is a possible threat to lives and homes as a fire is approaching the area and conditions are changing,” the DFES said. “You need to leave or get ready to actively defend.”

The fire is burning in inaccessible bushland along Canning Dam Road near McNess Drive and is burning towards Heritage Drive and slowly moving west.

8.24pm: Two elderly people who were feared missing have been found safe and well, 22 people are injured and more than 30 homes are believed ruined as a devastating bushfire burns through the Adelaide Hills for a third day.

The two people who were identified as a man from Kersbrook and a woman from Cudlee Creek.

“At this stage, we’re not sure whether they are missing or whether they’ve taken refuge somewhere else,” Police Commissioner Gary Burns said earlier tonight.

“We don’t know necessarily at this stage whether the fire went through that particular location.”

The state Country Fire Service downgraded its emergency warning to a watch-and-act message today, but said the blaze continued to burn freely in all directions.

Among the communities still considered at risk were those at One Tree Hill, Humbug Scrub, Mount Crawford, Kersbrook, Birdwood, Gumeracha, Kenton Valley, Cudlee Creek and Inglewood.

At least a dozen homes have been confirmed destroyed, and there are fears for 20 others.

More than 1100 properties in the affected areas were without power this evening because of the fire, which has burned through almost 13,000 hectares of the hills.

Twenty-two people, mostly firefighters, have been injured and one fire truck destroyed in what’s been described as the worst fire in the Adelaide Hills since the Ash Wednesday blaze in 1983 in which 28 people died in South Australia.

With more than 20 roads into the fire zone remaining closed, many frustrated evacuees have been prevented from returning to their homes.

Police confirmed they had arrested one person for repeatedly trying to access the fire zone at a control point.

Premier Jay Weatherill cautioned residents against trying to return to their homes too soon, saying there were serious concerns about trees falling on vehicles in the fire zone.

The main priority would be to contain the blaze within its general perimeter before more hot weather arrives on Wednesday.

“The objective of this is obviously to ensure that the fire does not spread under the worsening conditions, but also to open up as many areas as possible,” the Premier said.

Conditions were cooler in the hills today with a top temperature in Adelaide of 30.5C.

Slightly warmer days were forecast for tomorrow and Tuesday before the mercury was likely to surge again into the high 30s.

Police are investigating if the fire was sparked by an incinerator on a property at Sampson Flat, though the tenant has denied the suggestion.

Members of the community have banded together in support of the bushfire victims, flooding a relief centre at Golden Grove with donations of food, water and bedding.

Jesse Wakeman, 27, who was left stranded when roads to his Kersbrook home were closed, said he was staying with friends until he could return home, and even long lost acquaintances had offered support.

“We really don’t know what we’ve got left, as far as stock and the house itself,” he told AAP. “But everyone has been really, really supportive.” The government is offering emergency relief grants of up to $700 for families affected by the fire, as well as short-term accommodation.

4.57pm: Two people are missing in the Adelaide Hills region as firefighters continue the battle to contain bushfires, South Australia police say.

One of the missing is believed to be an elderly man, while the other is an elderly woman, police say.

3.38pm: More than 30 homes are believed ruined as a major bushfire continues to burn out of control in the Adelaide Hills.

Twenty-two people, mostly fire fighters, have also been injured and one fire truck destroyed as a number communities remain under threat.

The Country Fire Service downgraded its emergency warning to a watch-and-act message on Sunday, but said the blaze continued to burn freely in all directions.

“The entire perimeter of the fire has pockets of free-burning fuel,” the CFS said in its latest advice.

“Crews are actively patrolling and dealing with the fire edge.” Among the communities still considered at risk were those at One Tree Hill, Humbug Scrub, Mount Crawford, Kersbrook, Birdwood, Gumeracha, Kenton Valley, Cudlee Creek and Inglewood.

More than 1000 properties in those areas were also without power because of the fire.
2.30pm: Justice Minister Michael Keenan says the federal government is helping South Australia battle bushfires in the Adelaide Hills.

The RAAF Base Edinburgh was available for aircraft combating the blaze to refuel, he said.

“We have provided the runways at RAAF Edinburgh and the water needed,” Mr Keenan said.

1.14pm: More than 1000 properties in the Adelaide Hills remain without power because of the impact of the major blaze still burning out of control.

SA Power Networks says 859 properties at Cudlee Creek, Houghton, Lower Hermitage, Paracombe and Upper Hermitage have no electricity. A further 171 properties in the Gould Creek, Humbug Scrub and Sampson Flat areas are also without service.

SA Power Networks says its crews are currently working on safe access to the fire grounds and detailed inspections of power assets will be required before repairs can be conducted and power restored.

No estimate of the time when services will be restored has been provided.

1.05pm: The South Australia Country Fire Service is responding to a grassfire at Murray Bridge, east of Adelaide.

The CFS has listed the fire as going in the area of Avoca Dell Drive.

No advice or watch and act message has been issued at this stage.

11.03am: Hundreds of people, including athletes, tradespeople and the general public, have offered practical help as the bushfire emergency in the Adelaide Hills continues.

From 20 young people with exceptional climbing skills to offers of transport, shelter and food, the community response to Adelaide’s outskirts has been exceptional.

A community notice board has been established to take offers of help, with people responding from across the Adelaide suburbs and regional centres.

A Bushfires SA assistance page on Facebook also had attracted more than 8200 members by Sunday morning.

Other people have been offering support directly to the Country Fire Service and to emergency relief centres set up on the perimeter of the fire zone.

9.35am: An out-of-control bushfire in South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges has destroyed 12 homes and there are fears for 20 others, Premier Jay Weatherill has confirmed.

The Country Fire Service says 22 fire fighters have also been injured in the blaze, though none seriously, and one fire truck destroyed in the worst conditions since Ash Wednesday in 1983. Temperatures in the fire zone were forecast to be cooler on Sunday, with a top of 31C tipped for Adelaide, but winds were expected to reach 40km/h in the hills in the morning and the evening.

The Country Fire Service reduced the fire warning from the highest emergency level to a watch and act message.

However, it said the fire was stilling burning on several fronts and threatened the safety of residents in a number of communities including Sampson Flat, One Tree Hill, Humbug Scrub, Millbrook Reservoir, Kersbrook, Gumeracha, Birdwood, Mount Crawford and Kenton Valley.

“The fire behaviour may be erratic and burning in all directions,” the CFS said.

“There is a risk to lives and property.” Ground and aircrews continued to work on the blaze on Sunday with more than 400 firefighters, 80 fire trucks and 14 aircraft involved.

The blaze has already destroyed more than 11,000 hectares of scrub, with the full loss of property, including livestock, fencing sheds and homes, yet to be determined.

Among the confirmed losses is a dog and cat boarding business near Inglewood where a large number of dogs and cats died.

The CFS also warned on Sunday of the danger now posed by trees that had already fallen or could fall over the next few days. “This hazard places a huge risk on the community living or working in this area and is delaying the return of residents to their homes,” it said.

So far no-one has been allowed to return to a home in the fire zone and more than 20 roads remain closed.

“While everything is being done to permit the return of people to their homes, public safety is a priority,” police said.

“Members of the public are asked to be patient.” The threat posed by the blaze to Adelaide’s north-eastern suburb, which reached its height on Friday night, was reduced on Sunday with winds now pushing the blaze away from homes in those areas.

8.44am: AT least six homes have been destroyed and 11,500ha burnt in South Australia’s worst fires since 1983.

As two states enter a third day of fighting bushfires the threat in Victoria has eased.

Strong winds are expected to fan South Australia’s worst bushfire in 30 years, with the extent of damage already still to be confirmed. Thirteen volunteer firefighters have been injured while fighting the blaze.

The out-of-control Sampson Flat fire in the Mount Lofty Ranges is thought to have destroyed dozens of homes and burnt out more than 11,000 hectares of scrub and farmland since Friday afternoon. However, the fire has now been downgraded to watch and act.

SA Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton remained cautious, saying wind changes might cause the fire to break out of the northwest edge of the blaze, which has a huge perimeter of 158 kilometres.

Although temperatures are forecast to be lower today, winds will keep fire crews and residents fighting desperately to save lives and property.

At least 19 communities remain under threat and SA Premier Jay Weatherill has warned residents to be vigilant as the western front of the fire burns within 30km of Adelaide’s centre.

“There should be no sense of relief because the temperatures are somewhat lower and there are spots of rain about,” Mr Weatherill said yesterday. “The situation remains extremely dangerous.”

After nudging 40C yesterday, Adelaide is expected to hit a high of 31C on Sunday.

More than 200 firefighters were working overnight to protect townships including Kersbrook and Mount Crawford to the east and Birdwood to the south.

Lives are at risk in communities in a large swath of land south of Sampson Flat, stretching from Upper Hermitage, Inglewood and Houghton to Lobethal and Charleston.

At least five homes and several sheds have been confirmed lost but the CFS has said there may be dozens of homes destroyed.

“I think there are more losses than that from what I’ve been able to get from my people, but they’re not at the stage where we can put an exact number on it,” Mr Nettleton said.

The CFS is focusing efforts on ensuring the fire is under control before Wednesday, when more hot and windy weather is forecast.

But cooler conditions are expected to help firefighters contain blazes in Victoria’s northeast. Temperatures are not expected to exceed 30C near Horsham and Moyston today.

Firefighters worked throughout the night to contain fires in Dimboola and Cherrypool as blazes raged in two national parks. Crews have battled in the Moyston and surrounding areas since Friday.

They were able to stop the spread of fire in Hastings last night. One home has been confirmed destroyed, and others damaged by fire. Four sheds were also lost and more than 7000 hectares of land burnt out across the state.

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