Storm sparks multiple fires

November 28, 2017

Lightning strikes in the Conargo area on Sunday. Photos supplied by Dion Winter.

A lone RFS tanker patrols a charred paddock.

Sunday’s electrical storm sparked between 20 and 30 fires across the Rural Fire Service Mid Murray Zone, with at least 40 firefighters working diligently over an 11 hour period to contain them.

Zone district officer Phil Brunsdon said all fires were started by lightning, with most burning less than 10 hectares of grassland or bushland.

The largest of Sunday’s fires were at Barham and Mathoura, burning 40ha and 20ha respectively and spurred on by the windy conditions.

And while the storm has passed, Mr Brunsdon said fires could still ignite over coming days.

‘‘We do expect a few more fires to pop up; trees that are struck can sometimes burn slowly inside before they catch fire,’’ he said.

‘‘We ask people to keep a close eye out and call Triple Zero if they do see a fire.’’

Mr Brunsdon said about 10 of the reported fires ignited between 8am and 10am Sunday, with the rest ‘‘coming in waves’’ throughout the day.

‘‘Luckily rain followed the lightning in most areas and did help suppress a fair few of the fires, but in other spots it was very dry,’’ Mr Brunsdon said.

‘‘There wasn’t enough rain to put out the fires but our volunteers were quick to get to most of them and kept them to a small area.

‘‘There were also a number of private units that assisted as well.

‘‘The first call came in at 8am Sunday and everyone was back in the sheds and all fires declared contained at 7pm.

‘‘It was a long day for everyone and there was a lot of good work from the volunteers and the community.

‘‘One brigade was chasing lightning strikes for about four or five hours, which was a good effort.’’

Mr Brunsdon said seven brigades responded to the lightning strike fires across the district, with about 15 trucks and many working outside of their brigade areas.

He said Bunnaloo was particularly affected by the storm, with at least seven of the day’s fires burning in that area.

He said Wandook, Wanganella, Conargo, Mathoura and Jerilderie were also among the areas impacted.

Dion Winter, who is doing some contract harvesting work for Australian Food & Agriculture, said he was working on Sunday when a fire struck at the rear of the AF&A property ‘Peppinella’, near the Deniliquin-Wanganella Rd.

He and other contractors working at the property assisted in fighting the blaze.

‘‘It was scary, but pretty interesting to watch (the lightning strikes),’’ he said.

‘‘There were people everywhere; it was good to see so many people helping out.’’

Mr Brunsdon said yesterday that at this stage he was not aware of any infrastructure damage caused by the multiple blazes.

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