FIRE CLOSES IN

THE CLOSURE of the Newell Highway in both directions was just another problem for firefighters to contend with as the Wambelong fire continued to burn for the seventh day.

Facing conditions of increased ferocity, as well as a total fire ban, the monstrous blaze remained a priority for emergency services as more than 170 firefighters battled against flames spurred on by rising temperatures and strengthening winds.

As of yesterday the fire had destroyed 46,000 hectares and claimed many more properties, with 51 homes, 113 outbuildings, as well as countless  numbers of livestock and farm machinery.

The fire front yesterday was about eight kilometres to the west of Coonabarabran, four kilometres south of Siding Spring and one kilometre south of Bugaldie village.

More properties were under threat as the Wambelong fire breached the south-eastern front forcing the closure of the Newell Highway.

Firefighting resources, including fire crews, tankers, aircraft and heavy machinery, focused on the area as the blaze spread quickly in grassland and travelled eight to 10 kilometres towards the highway. 

The victims of the fire yesterday received some relief in the form of an Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.

So far 26 claims worth $30,000 have been granted in the Gilgandra, Coonamble and Warrumbungle local government areas.

The ban on patient transfers back to Coonabarabran District Hospital remained in place as firefighters waited to see what the night would bring.

Emergency manager for the Western NSW Local Health District Joy Adams confirmed early yesterday afternoon it was “business as usual” at the district hospital, except for transfers. She reiterated the emergency department was operating at the Edwards Street facility that had an “up to date” disaster plan.

Transfers were put on hold on Thursday as wind and heat built, along with fears that the hospital might be susceptible to smoke and spot fires.

Firefighters were yesterday working to strengthen containment lines between Timor Road and Baradine Road to protect isolated properties on the outskirts of Coonabarabran.

Backburning has been carried out near the Needle Mountain Communication Facility for its protection.

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