Bigga in ring of fire: Mini Gallery

THE Hammond family was battening down the hatches and watching aerial water bombers whir around their Bigga district home yesterday.

As Kate Hammond spoke to the Post yesterday the family home on Grabine Rd, 16km from Bigga, was surrounded by fire on three sides.

“There are aerial water bombers all around us. They are just amazing,” she said.

If the brick house went, it would go quickly but she was not scared.

In fact she was “pretty much over it.”

Already the blaze had burnt through 1000 of their 1700-acre medium-wool growing property, ‘Glen Oak,’ owned with husband, Robert and his parents Kevin and Gwen.

Since Tuesday night the Rural Fire Service has been battling the largest fire in this district so far this season. Crews and aerial support have saved up to 10 houses, including five on Wednesday night.

The fire broke out from a lightning strike between 3pm and 4pm Tuesday, some 15km northwest of Bigga near the Gulf Fire trail and the popular Wyangala Dam.

By yesterday it had burnt through nearly 3000 hectares of private land, Southern Tablelands RFS community liaison officer Peter Dyce said. That total included 500ha of back burning on Wednesday night.

Some five camping parties at Grabine Park decided to leave after being advised they could be isolated by future road closure.

Twenty crews, including 60 personnel and up to nine aircraft battled the fire yesterday and by afternoon it was being controlled.

Containing it has proved a challenge with weather conditions on Wednesday night causing it to break the western containment line.

“We did back burning from the Sandy Creek area near Grabine Park around the Wyangala Waters State Park and on to the Decca fire trail,” Mr Dyce said.

“That increased the size of the fire by about 500ha.”

The outbreak burnt over Greenmantle Rd and headed to the Abercrombie River.

Mr Dyce said the country around Mt Davis was “very rough, extreme and steep” with heavy timber while other parts were still hilly but not as well vegetated.

By yesterday the blaze had burnt through what one resident described as “good grazing country” but not prime quality owned by fine wool growers. Mrs Hammond said the area had many small blocks.

Mr Dyce said some graziers were not happy with the fact their land was destroyed during back burning.

“I can sympathise with them but we have to take precautions and burning out a few hundred hectares now will save a lot more later on,” he said.

The Post is aware of stock losses in the area but the number is unclear.

Mrs Hammond said the blaze broke out eight to 10km “as the crow flies” from their place after lightning struck in rough terrain.

“No one could get in and then it took off from a wind change,” she told the Post.

She described it as a slow burning fire which kept flaring up across many fronts, dropping and changing with the vacuum effect of the valley in which they lived.

On Wednesday her husband and 81-year-old father-in-law moved sheep to another yard which the RFS sprayed retardant around.

“I want to thank the crews and the helicopter operators because they are just amazing. We wouldn’t be here without them,” Mrs Hammond said.

“And my father-in-law at 81 out there moving stock – he has heart and soul and is a farmer to the core.”

Mr Dyce warned yesterday if the area didn’t receive rain this weekend and the fire took an adverse turn, it could take out the top part of Upper Lachlan Shire right around to the Abercrombie River.

Thunderstorms are forecast for Saturday with a top of 27, and rain on Sunday with a maximum 26 degrees.

Similar RFS numbers to yesterday were expected to be rostered overnight.

Grabine Rd was closed at Froggs Crossing Rd and was only open to local traffic yesterday. Mr Dyce said this would be reviewed today.

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