| 07.09,19. 03:08 AM |
NSW bushfires burning out of control, two houses lost and firefighter injured in Tenterfield
Fast moving bushfire threatening homes in Lisdale (ABC News)
At least two houses and two businesses have been destroyed in the town of Tenterfield in northern NSW and a firefighter has suffered facial burns as an out-of-control fire is fuelled by strong winds.
Emergency warnings have been issued for four fires in the state's north, and a fifth blaze at Lithgow is still burning in what has been described by the Rural Fire Service as one of the worst fire days on record.
Latest RFS warnings:
•Tenterfield: The fire is burning in the Mount Mackenzie Road area. It is moving south east, along Scrub Road and has impacted Laird Street, Francis Street, King Lane, Scott Lane and Trail Lane. It is too late to leave. A wind change is moving through and will push the fire towards the Bruxner Highway
•Drake: The fire is burning in remote terrain south-west of the Drake village. A south-westerly change has pushed the fire towards the Bruxner Highway. The fire crossed Long Gully Road, Rocky (Timbarra) River. Residents in Ewingar, Tilbaroo and areas on the western side of the Clarence River should seek shelter
•Bees Nest: The fire continues to burn north of Ebor along the western side of Armidale Road near Marengo Road, where crews are working to protect properties. A wind change is moving across the fireground, moving the fire north easterly toward Tyringham, Merengo, Hernani, Meldrum and Dundarrabin. Residents in these areas should seek shelter as fire approaches.
•Legume: The fire is burning in Flagstone Road and Koreelah Creek Road, Legume. A south-westerly change has pushed the fire towards Mount Lindesay Road and Oaky Hill. Residents in the areas are advised to seek shelter as the fire approaches
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has confirmed a volunteer firefighter has suffered burns to his face, hands and airways fighting the blaze in Tenterfield and has been airlifted to Sydney for treatment.
The RFS said a second firefighter had been injured but did not provide further details.
The fire is burning "intensely and aggressively" according to the RFS, and has impacted Laird Street, Francis Street, King Lane, Scott Lane and Trail Lane in Tenterfield.
At 11:01pm on Friday night, RFS said a wind change had increased the fire activity, with the fire being pushed towards the Bruxner Highway.
Small fixed wing planes and helicopters are being used to attack the blaze.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said erratic winds gusting between 70 to 90kph were causing dangerous conditions which would continue into the evening.
"It is going to be a long night ahead for our firefighters and all those people being impacted by these fires."
Other blazes are burning in remote areas at Drake, 50 kilometres from Tenterfield, and along Armidale Road at Bees Nest, near Armidale. At 10:59pm on Friday the fire at Drake crossed Long Gully Road, heading toward the Bruxner Highway in a north easterly direction.
Another emergency blaze has burnt through 1,064 hectares at Legume, 50 kilometres north of Drake. At 11:16pm, RFS said a wind change was pushing the fire towards Mount Lindesay Road.
A fire near Lithgow in the state's central west has been downgraded to advice level after burning at emergency level and threatening properties earlier in the day.
RFS said embers from the fires may be blown well ahead of the blazes, potentially causing spot fires which may threaten properties.
'Worst fire day' for this early in season
There are almost 700 firefighters battling around 60 fires, of which almost 50 remain out of control.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said it had been one of the worst fire days on record for this time of year.
"Working with the Bureau of Meteorology, looking through our data records, we can't find records where fire danger ratings have been this high this early in the year in the history of data available."
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said residents near the fires needed to shelter in place until the fire had passed through.
"The fires are burning in and around people's properties as we speak," he said.
Tenterfield local John Hinitt said he rushed to his son-in-law's tyre business in town but it was burning "like crazy".
"I got out there just when it was getting going … it was so vicious."
"It's a shame — he just got his business going this year and now it's finished."
Rhonda Robera broke down as she told the ABC how the fire had completely destroyed her husband's car yard.
"It's very dear to us … hundreds of cars just gone," she said.
"It was really horrific."
Ms Robera said everyone in the community was "pretty down" as they had already been enduring years of drought.
Caravan park evacuated
Tenterfield Mayor Peter Petty said the local public and catholic school buildings had been evacuated.
"[The] school's been evacuated, the emergency point is actually in front of council chambers, kids are there now and their parents are coming and taking them home," he said.
Mr Petty said the town was busy with lots of people arriving for the Peter Allen Festival which was due to be held this weekend.
"Most of them are in caravan parks. There is a caravan park just on the southern end and they have been evacuated, they've moved their caravans onto the side of the road, and the show ground is a bit out of danger," he said.
Mr Petty said winds in the area were gusting up to 60 kilometres an hour.
"There is nothing out of danger with this."
Jimmy, a Tenterfield local, said he'd seen one driver experience a lucky escape.
"At the height of the fire there [as I was] just trying to help some people with a bit of traffic, there was old mate in a caravan … out towards the football field and the fire went straight under [the caravan] and left it completely unscathed.," Jimmy said.
"It's just incredible given all the embers that have been flying around everywhere."
Deputy RFS Commissioner Rob Rodgers said conditions on Saturday would be difficult, despite cooler weather expected due to a south-westerly change.
"The change is coming through and it's going to be cooler but it's still going to be quite dry and [with winds] strong from the south west instead of the north west.
"So it's not going to give any reprieve in those areas and I think whilst it will be a lot colder tomorrow, with the strong winds and low humidity tomorrow is going to be another problem day for those communities affected by the fire.