FIRE TOLL RISES

THE NUMBER of homes lost in the monstrous fire terrorising the district of Coonabarabran has risen to 40 as the land destroyed by the blaze climbs to 42,000 hectares.

The Wambelong fire has not only incinerated homes near the Warrumbungle National Park but more than 110 farm sheds, thousands of sheep and cattle, fencing, vehicles and machinery have also been lost.

The Local Government Areas of Warrumbungle, Gilgandra, Coonamble, Walgett, Warren and Bogan in the Parkes electorate have been declared Natural Disaster areas following devastating bushfires.

The number of homes lost near Coonabanabran due to the Wambelong fire is predicted to rise as assessors work through burnt-out areas.

The blaze remains the major focus for the Rural Fire Service with 111 Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighters on the ground assisted by 20 aircraft to strengthen containment lines before the return of hotter weather today.

Yesterday firefighters were back burning to strengthen containment lines in the south-east part of the fire between Timor Road and Baradine Road to protect the Coonabarabran township.

Yesterday the fire was burning in the Bugaldie area, 1km south of Bugaldie village, 8km west of Coonabarabran and 4km south of Siding Spring.

Properties in the Bingie Grumble Road area and isolated rural properties along Tanabah Road were predicted to come under increased threat yesterday due to increased wind speed and direction.

The Baradine Road is now open while the Newell Highway is closed at the intersection of the Oxley Highway, north of Coonabarabran due to backburning. Timor Road is closed until further notice.

The Redbank North fire is also burning uncontained in the district, 50 kilometres north east of Coonabarabran along the Newell Highway in a north-west direction.

While no properties are under threat the fire has burnt more than 2,200 hectares.

More than 40 firefighters, assisted by a number of bulldozers were working on containment lines around the perimeter of the fire yesterday, ahead of forecast deteriorating weather conditions to begin today.

The Newell Highway was closed between Coonabarabran and Narrabri to enable fire crews to undertake back burning operations.

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