This morning the RFS Blue Mountains District activated its third Strike Team (called East 60) in 4 weeks to respond to Wagga Wagga to assist with a large fire in the area.
At last report the fire, near Pulletop - about 30km south of Wagga Wagga, started yesterday (Wednesday) and grew overnight from 150ha to 8,650ha, with a Declaration under Section 44 of the Rural Fires Act being made at 3:30pm Monday afternoon.
The fire has travelled over 40km from its ignition point and has not yet been contained. It is burning either side of the Hume Highway south of Tarcutta near Kyeamba and Humula. Strong winds and drought conditions contributed to the fire, which moved quickly across open grassland and into some steep timbered terrain.
The fire crossed the Hume Highway yesterday evening, resulting in the closure of the Highway from Holbrook in the south, to the intersection of the Sturt Highway and Hume Highway west of Wagga Wagga in the north. The Highway is expected to remain closed until at least 7 pm tonight (7 February). Access roads leading off the Hume Highway in the vicinity of Kyeamba have also been closed.
The fire front north east of the Hume Highway is heading towards Tarcutta, while the fire front north west of the Hume Highway is heading towards Book Book and Livingstone. To date, the rural properties that have been threatened have been protected. There have been no evacuations at this stage.
Overnight around 350 firefighting personnel and 80 fire appliances from the Rural Fire Service (RFS), National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), State Forests (SF) and NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) worked on the fire overnight, a job made very difficult by low relative humidity and strong winds.
There are currently 147 Firefighting appliances, 5 aircraft, 5 bulldozers/graders and 467 firefighting and support personnel deployed to the fire, with a further 25 firefighting appliances (including the Blue Mountains units) now en-route to further bolster the firefighting efforts. Weather conditions in the area are not expected to improve within the next 3 or 4 days, which will make the firefighters' job even harder.
Strike Team East 60 consists of Deputy Group Captains Mick Metcalfe and Terry Jacka along with 39 volunteer firefighters from:-