Massive fires could merge as winds test containment lines
WITH wind gusts of up to 60km-per-hour this afternoon, there's the frightening possibility the massive Bees Nest fire west of Coffs Harbour could join up with two other major blazes to the north.
The Bees Nest fire has already taken out 95,658 hectares and strong winds are once again testing containment lines and weary firefighters who have been working around the clock for weeks now to contain it.
To the north the Kingsgate, Red Range fire in Glen Innes has burnt out 26,364 hectares; and to the north east the Kaloe Mountain Trail fire in the Clarence Valley has destroyed 17,973 hectares.
And now, according to NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Inspector Ben Shepherd, there's the very real possibility the three will join up.
"As we speak we are seeing spotting activities across those fire grounds putting pressure on containment lines," Insp Shepherd said on Monday afternoon.
"There is the very real possibility that the three fires will link up.
"We have north to northwest wind gusts of up to 50 and 60 kilometres an hour which will lead to an increase in fire behaviour this afternoon."
The official toll puts eight homes and 11 outbuildings lost to the Bees Nest fire with many residents reporting the loss of cabins, fences, sheds and other property.
Billys Creek landowner and ecologist Mark Graham has lost vast amounts of precious vegetation on his conservation blocks in the region and his cabin. He says the recent fires are unprecedented.
"Historically, bushfires definitely did not burn with such intensity or spread so rapidly in the first week of Spring," Mark said.
"Never before have early Spring bushfires burnt right through patches of ancient and sensitive rainforest such as recent fires on the Western Dorrigo Plateau from Billys Creek to Mt Hyland."
Inspector Shepherd is keeping a close eye on conditions this afternoon.
"We've had reports this afternoon of spot fires developing past containment lines and taking hold, and we still have a number of hours of strong winds forecast."
He says there are currently 460 firefighters battling fires across the State with majority of those on the three fires currently threatening to join up west of Coffs Harbour.