Strong winds and temperatures in the low 40s today could see the Moonbria Rd fire near Jerilderie get out of control again.By Zoe McMaugh
The Moonbria Rd fire, which is still smoldering in timber alongside the Yanco Creek, could have been much worse, according to Conargo Rural Fire Service Captain Michael Bull.
The fire had been mostly contained to the timbered area when the Pastoral Times went to print yesterday afternoon, however weather forecasts for today are still concerning authorities.
Expected northerly winds and temperatures in the low 40s could see the fire burn out of control again.
With local fire crews working around the clock to keep the fire contained, strike force crews from the Victorian Country Fire Authority will arrive from today.
Two teams of at least five tankers and 20 firefighters each will relieve the exhausted local crews.
Capt Bull was on scene when Monday night’s grass fire — caused by lightning — re-sparked on Tuesday morning. The blaze tore through three adjoining properties before reaching the creek.
He said without the four water bombing planes the burned area would have been much larger.
‘‘There was no way known we could keep up with it,’’ Capt Bull said.
‘‘From (the property) Euroka (where the fire originated) there was a straight path to (the property) Wononga and then into (the property) Somerset Merino Stud.
‘‘There was a long fire front from west to east, and we were concerned about it heading north as well.
‘‘The fire-affected area stretches about 10km in length. We were putting it out as we went, but at times the fire stretched 2km at a time and it was reigniting behind us.
‘‘There were quite high flames moving along in the main gust getting up to 15 to 20 feet then dying down again.
‘‘It was burning mostly through open dry areas, crackling as it went, and the very front just moved too fast for us.
‘‘The only thing that brought it under control was the fire bombers.’’
The firefighting efforts eased a potential evacuation order on Jerilderie, which was a strong possibility on Tuesday.
RFS Mid Murray Zone Superintendent Gary Eason said more than 130 firefighters helped control the fire since Monday night.
‘‘The response from volunteers has been fantastic. We’ve had strike forces from Wakool, Koraleigh, Moulamein and Moama, as well as the Southern Border team from Albury.’’
Capt Bull said as well as official volunteer firefighters, landholders had also been instrumental in containing the fire.
By late yesterday afternoon, firefighters were trying to mop up as much of the fire before today’s predicted weather change.
Today is expected to get to a top of 40°C with northerly winds expected to reach speeds of 45km/h hour by the afternoon, according to the RFS.
On Saturday, the temperature is forecasted to drop to a high of just 34°C, but winds will still be up to 20km/h coming from the south.
Sunday’s temperature will drop slightly below 30°C, but it will be back up to the mid to high 30s into next week.
Mid Murray Zone RFS manager Lindsay Lashbrook said forecasted rain would do little to assist in extinguishing the fire, and said the storm activity associated with it raised more fears of fire inducing lightning strikes.
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