Road closure and evacuation in Killarney Gap fire

November 28, 2009

Mt Kaputar National Park is on fire again. In scenes reminiscent of those seen three years ago, smoke is covering a wide area of the Nandewar Range above the Rocky Creek Valley. The terrain is extremely difficult, making quick containment impossible.

This photograph was taken from the road at “Castletop”.
The bushfire which started near Sawn Rocks has burnt out a large area in the northern part of the Mt. Kaputar National Park.

The fire started when a caravan being towed on the western side of Killarney Gap about half way to Sawn Rocks, caught fire last Tuesday, November 16. The fire quickly spread to surrounding bushland, crossing the road, racing up the hill, heading north east. Fire crews from the National Parks and Rocky Creek were on the scene on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday morning the road was closed and around midday the situation deteriorated with burning trees falling onto the road one hundred metres to the west of the barbecue area at the top of Killarney Gap, according to local landholder Tricia Hadley.

Fire crews soon became involved in protecting the two houses on the Hadley’s property “Amberley”, which adjoins the National Park, with the fire coming within 15 me-tres of one of the houses. Also under threat was the “Killarney Springs” home.

Mrs Hadley was full of praise for the firefighters who kept the fire away from the two houses on “Amberley”. Mrs Hadley made particular mention of Scott Michell of “Castletop”, who “did a wonderful job dozing a firebreak above the houses on Wednesday which saved them from being burnt.” “It was really terrifying,” Mrs Hadley said. “Until 9pm that night we didn’t know whether we had a house or not” as they had been evacuated earlier.

The fire has burnt 1500 hectares of country and is still burning. According to Rural Fire Service Public Liaison Officer, Brett Loughlin, it will continue to burn for quite some time, unless it rains. Mr Loughlin said that containment lines are in place and conditions are becoming more favourable to undertake back burning to strengthen containment lines.

Mr Loughlin praised the local brigade, saying “The Rocky Creek Brigade has been pivotal to the operations. Members of the brigade have done a great job, as they always do,” he said.

Rural Fire Service “strike” crews from Northern Rivers and Clarence Valley also attended the fire, joining crews from Bingara, Warialda, Grattai and Narrabri and other brigades with the fighting, along with National Parks and State Forestry personnel.

On Monday, November 23 there were 33 Rural Fire Service trucks, 14 National Parks trucks and two Forestry trucks attending the fire, along with three helicopters supporting ground operations.

There are other fires in the local area. Fifty kilometres east of Bingara is a fire at Diamond Swamp on Wearne’s Rd, where 660 hectares have been burnt in rocky, inaccessible terrain.

Bulldozers have been working on containment lines and fixed wing water bombers, along with ground crews have been fighting the fire which is now considered “controlled”. Crews from Bingara, Warialda and Warialda Rail have attended that fire.

Amidst all this fire action, the Warialda Rural Fire Brigade rescued some fishermen at Gravesend who had dialled 000 for assistance having bogged their vehicle and run out of water, last weekend.