Major battle for firefighters
By CRAIG McTEAR
WARWICK Roche has a small army at his disposal in a battle against a formidable enemy.
The Mid North Coast's Rural Fire Service (RFS) manager is the incident controller attempting to gain the upper hand over a massive blaze north-west of Corindi in the Yuraygir National Park.
The frontline troops comprise up to 60 RFS firefighters from the Coffs Harbour, Nambucca, Kempsey, Hastings and Tweed districts, 27 Forests NSW fire personnel from Coffs Harbour and Grafton, and 15 National Parks firefighters from Coffs Harbour and Grafton.
They are supported by 10 RFS tankers, 10 Forests NSW vehicles and five National Parks vehicles.
The fight has also taken to the air in the form of four helicopters flown in from as far afield as Sydney. Three of them are water bombers and one is used for observation.
The helicopter crews are regularly briefed by an air attack supervisor at Coffs Harbour Showground and refuelling and bombing operations are staged from the Corindi Showground.
The fire control headquarters in Coffs Harbour is buzzing with activity as strategists plan their next move.
The wildfire broke out on Wednesday morning on private property and spread into Barcoongere State Forest and Yuraygir National Park, west of Red Rock, pushed north by strong southerly winds.
The blaze has so far claimed 2500 hectares ? 500 hectares of private property, 1000 hectares of forest and 1000 hectares of parkland.
While lives and property aren't threatened at this stage, authorities are working around-the-clock to make sure that situation doesn't change.
The firestorm continues to head north-west, helped by strong winds from the south and south-east which are expected to persist until at least tomorrow.
Mr Roche said containment lines had been established on the fire's southern front and crews were working to secure more on other fronts with the help of heavy machinery. Backburning operations are also under way.
Smoke hazards and possible road closures on the Pacific Highway between Corindi and Grafton, Barcoongere Way and Station Creek Road mean motorists should avoid these areas.
The Station Creek rest area is expected to remain closed for the next three to four days.
Smoke and ash from the fire is affecting communities up to 15 kilometres in front of the fire.