It was by luck only, according to local fire authorities, that no lives or homes were lost in the Moonbria Rd fire, which has been burning near Jerilderie for more than a week.
But for the Aull family on the property ‘Wononga’, about 15km north-west of Jerilderie, it was certainly a close call.
Wononga was one of three properties ravaged by what the Rural Fire Service (RFS) has called the Moonbria Rd fire.
It was started on the property ‘Euroka’ by lightning strike on January 7, and spread through Wononga and the ‘Somerset Merino Stud’.
Lauren Aull, the daughter of David and Felicite Aull, said the fire came close to destroying their home.
She said it was still too early to count their losses, but that the whole family was just pleased and lucky to have come out safe and with the house still standing.
‘‘The blaze literally just went around the perimeter of the garden,’’ Ms Aull said.
‘‘We were very lucky.’’
The Moonbria Rd fire sparked about midnight on Monday last week, and was extinguished that night.
During a patrol of the burned area the following morning, however, Conargo RFS Captain Michael Bull said he saw the fire re-ignite and move quickly through dry grassland.
He said it moved so fast firefighters could not keep up with it.
A wind change saw it turn towards ‘Wononga’ without warning.
Lauren, her parents and her brother Samuel were forced to seek salvage in the creek given the short notice.
One minute they were clearing drainpipes on the house, the next they were running to the water, hands over mouths to protect their airways from the mass of smoke around them.
‘‘We were aware that the fire had reignited around 9am and was burning several kilometres away on our property,’’ Lauren said.
‘‘Just before midday we became aware that the wind had changed direction and it was moving towards the house.
‘‘About two minutes after that, it arrived. It all happened so quickly.’’
When the Southern Riverina News spoke to Lauren on Monday, some areas of ‘Wononga’ were ‘‘still burning’’.
Late last week, firefighters had the Moonbria Rd fire contained to some timber along the Yanco Creek.
Victorian Country Fire Authority crews were called in to cover the weekend, in an effort to give local and regional volunteers a well earned break.
More than 130 firefighters have been working around-the-clock to ensure the blaze does not get out of control again.
A cool change on Sunday assisted in keeping the fire contained.
But fire authorities say they are cautiously concerned that winds may pick up again later this week, and possibly reignite the fire.
Firefighters have continued their focus on smoldering timber adjacent the Yanco Creek near Jerilderie.
At 3pm yesterday, Mid Murray Zone RFS manager Superintendent Lindsay Lashbrook said the fire was ‘‘done and dusted’’.
‘‘We only had two tankers on the ground (yesterday), with a few dozers. We’re now just concentrating on tidying up the burning timber on the creek, and by (today) we will just be patrolling.
‘‘But with 41°C predicted on Thursday, along with strong north-westerly winds, we will have crews on the ground again. A little bit of rain predicted for Friday will assist though.’’
Firefighters will continue to monitor the fire region for ‘‘some time’’.
~More stories & photos page 4.
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