Lucindale locals were counting the cost of a grassfire that burned through swathes of land around the area in South Australia’s south-east on Monday.
The fire began early on Monday afternoon in hot and windy extreme fire danger conditions at Blackford, near Mount Scott Conservation Park, not far from Kingston SE.
The Country Fire Service (CFS) issued multiple emergency warnings to people around Lucindale, about 345 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, when the grassfire began burning in an easterly direction towards the town.
The fire was downgraded to “advice” level about 9pm on Monday, however the CFS warned it was still uncontained.
Tuesday’s fire danger rating for the lower south-east is very high, with a top of 30 degrees forecast in Naracoorte.
There were fears homes had been destroyed, with vision taken from a helicopter on Monday afternoon showing smouldering structures around the town.
Although authorities were yet to confirm whether any buildings had been destroyed, CFS state duty commander Brenton Hastie on Monday said there were “reports of structures being impacted in Lucindale”.
On Monday night, the CFS was reporting the fire had burned through about 16,800 hectares.
Local MP Nick McBride said he understood at least one family home was lost at Avenue Range, along with up to 2000 sheep and 200 cattle.
“We also lost the old Avenue store. The old church or a school at Avenue was burnt out, as well,” he said.
“They’re the difficult, iconic type of losses we had, including a family home, and the other losses would have been just sheds and haystacks.”
He said the fire “stopped dead” once it reached the fringe of Lucindale, leaving the field days site untouched.
Lucindale resident Shirley Solomon said the wind on Monday “was so, so strong”.
“It was quite frightening, and overall it’s such a big loss to the community and surrounding areas,” she said.
“It will take a long time for people to get through and over to the other side – it’s devastating.”
Electricity out in area
Power was cut to about 3100 homes in the area, according to SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts.
On Monday evening, Mr Roberts said it was unlikely that crews would be able to gain access until 7am Tuesday, or until the CFS deemed it safe.
“We believe the outage is caused by the fire activity; we don’t know the specific cause yet,” he said.
“Fire can cause outages from smoke, from the kind of winds that blow up debris, or even fire damage.”
At one point, about 100 Lucindale residents sheltered in the town hall.
Local Ronnie Dix said the fire burnt its way right to the town.
“Around the outsides, yeah,” he said.
“I mean, really, if you’re a poor animal in the paddock, I don’t think there will be many sheep that will survive.
“There’s quite a lot of properties through there that have lost 100 per cent, bar the house.”
Forty-five fire trucks and six waterbombers, as well as support aircraft, were deployed to battle the blaze, with the CFS calling in more trucks and brigades from as far afield as the Mount Lofty Ranges.
Department of Environment and Water and farm firefighters helped.
The blaze broke out amid total statewide fire bans, with the nearby south-east town of Naracoorte hitting 39.3 degrees at 2.18pm.