Bracing for catastrophe 

GOULBURN Emergency services were on heightened alert yesterday as the district braced itself for what was predicted to be the worst fire conditions in about 10 years.

Emergency services were operating under what was referred to as pre-emptive section 44 conditions.

The fire danger rating for parts of Goulburn Mulwaree and Wingecaribee Shire was rated as catastrophic. Other areas of the south eastern part of the state were rated as very high to extreme.

It followed a blaze near Gundaroo, southwest of Gunning on Monday which burnt out 76 hectares. A volunteer fire fighter suffered burns to five per cent of his body when fire over took the crew’s truck. He was flown to Concord Hospital on Monday night. (See story page 2).

Maximum resources were on stand by yesterday to cope with 38 degree temperatures and strong wind gusts.

Yesterday afternoon a fire started at Mt Wayo Station, northwest of Goulburn and another at Range Rd, southeast of Grabben Gullen near Learys Lane, which was “running well” due to north westerly winds and threatening houses, the RFS said.

Authorities were evacuating properties at the time of going to print.

While Monday’s Gundaroo blaze was contained early yesterday, by yesterday afternoon it had broken containment lines.

“The wind started getting stronger, creating problems in open areas where we thought it had been put out,” RFS community liaison manager Peter Dyce said.

Spare water tankers were on stand by to contain flare ups.

Another fire broke out near Wingello, to which Southern Highlands units were deployed. A water bomber was sent to the outbreak which had burnt out up to 7ha at 3pm.

Mr Dyce said the Goulburn Fire Control Centre was the designated operational headquarters for the RFS as it was the most central point to the worst risk area the in the zone.

Yesterday morning an Air Tractor fire fighting craft was flown in from Moree to stand by and the RFS ground support crew from Crookwell set up their portable equipment to quickly supply the aircraft with water and fire retardant chemicals if required.

State Ministers Pru Goward and Katrina Hodgkinson along with Primary Industries and Fisheries regional director Anne Muir, Mayor Geoff Kettle, Yass Valley Shire general manager David Rowe and Mayor Rowena Abbey, Palerang Shire general manager Peter Bascomb and Mayor Peter Harrison attended a briefing at the Goulburn Control Centre yesterday.

Incident controller and Southern Tablelands Rural Fire Service manager Peter Alley explained the state of preparedness and additional resources that had been enlisted in case a fire erupted later in the day.

Mr Alley said the potential for lightning strikes from the severe electrical storms on Saturday night and arcing power lines was concerns. Also of concern were the possibility of re-ignitions from fires that had been extinguished or contained but may have had remnants of smouldering material blown into unburnt country.

Fire fighters worked throughout Monday night and yesterday to black out any embers and fell trees with the aid of a large excavator to make the area as safe as possible.

He told them that there were no fires in the Goulburn Mulwaree or Upper Lachlan area however the Yarrabin Fire in the Cooma Monaro area was out of control.

NSW Fire and Rescue Zone Commander David Lewis explained the redeployment of his units to Yass so they could be quickly mobilised to attend incidents in neighbouring townships.

In Goulburn yesterday the council was battling falling trees from wind gusts.

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