As a seven-day state of emergency was declared across all of NSW today (19 December), the day that firefighters feared is starting to turn for the worst as the long-running Currowan Fire again threatens towns on the NSW south coast.
The NSW Rural Fire Service upgraded the Currowan fire advice level to emergency at 12:30 pm, while a second emergency level fire further north, known as the Tianjara Fire, is burning rapidly west of Sussex Inlet.
At 3:30 pm, both the Currowan Fire and Tianjara Fire that were initially rated as emergency level fires returned to watch and act.
“Conditions are easing across the fire ground,” the NSW Rural Fire Service says.
“Strong winds are forecast for Saturday. This may see an increase in fire activity.”
South-east to south-westerly winds of between 40-50 km/h are pushing the Currowan fire in a northerly direction towards Dolphin Point, Burrill Lake, Bungalow Park and Kings Point.
“The fire is currently spotting in the Dolphin Point, Burrill Lake, Bungalow Park, Kings Point area,” the NSW RFS website says.
“It is too late to leave if you are in those areas.”
After the Princes Highway was initially closed between Ulladulla and Lake Tabourie, it is now open with reduced speed limits. Motorists are advised to exercise caution.
The Kings Highway remains closed between Braidwood and Nelligen.
The Currowan Fire today surpassed more than 100,000 hectares and is currently burning between Burrill Lake and Morton National Park in the north, the Bundawang Range and Clyde Mountain in the west, and Batemans Bay in the south.
Firefighters supported by aircraft are working to slow the spread of the fire and protect properties.
An evacuation centre has been established at the Ulladulla Civic Centre, 81 Princes Highway, Ulladulla.
Further north, the new fire threat at Tianjara is burning on the southern side of Braidwood Road. The fire is more than 400 hectares and is out of control.
The NSW RFS said there is the potential for the fire to reach Tianjara Prohibited Area which contains substantial unexploded ordinance.
The former Tianjara Artillery Training Area near Sassafras, between Nerriga and Nowra, covers 8000 hectares and was identified by the Department of Defence as a contaminated site.
The RFS says the fire is spotting ahead of the main fire front and may impact Wandandian, the Princes Highway and access to Sussex Inlet today.
Firefighters, supported by aircraft and heavy plant machinery, are working in the area.
Wandean Road and Braidwood Road, between Turpentine Road and Nerriga, are closed. Smoke is currently impacting Braidwood Road and Sassafras.
For residents of Jerrawangola and Wandandian, the NSW RFS says it is too late to leave.
“Seek shelter as the fire approaches, protect yourself from the heat of the fire,” the RFS website says.
“For those at Sussex Inlet, Swan Haven, Cudmirrah and Berrara, the advice is to remain in place. At Tianjara, activate your bush fire survival plan. Leaving early is your safest option.”
An evacuation centre has been established at the St Georges Basin Country Club. People are encouraged to register online at Register Find Reunite before attending evacuation centres.
More to come.