Residents in the tiny town of Bemboka in NSW’s Bega Valley have spent a terrifying night surrounded by fast-moving bushfire, communicating on Facebook to check on neighbours.
Harrowing video showed just how close fires came to homes and livestock, as locals hunkered down when it became too dangerous to flee.
“There are cows in this paddock. I just heard one scream in pain. Horrific,” Rose Driver said as she shared video of the flames.
The bushfire, known as the Werri Berri fire had burned 3,000 hectares by Tuesday morning. Multiple fires – four considered an emergency level – were still burning across the state as of 6.30am, and strong northerly winds were expected to make conditions worse.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, residents and holidaymakers in the far-eastern town of Orbost were told in an alert at 6.07am they should seek shelter as it was now too late to leave.
Authorities were also warning a fire could hit the western side of Mallacoota by daylight following a day of heat and wind “comparable, almost, to Black Saturday”.
It comes as the RFS is reeling from the death of a third firefighter, after a truck rollover near the NSW-Victorian border.
Posted by Helmut Eder on Monday, December 30, 2019
Back in Bemboka overnight Monday, resident Helmut Eder was urging residents of surrounding areas to evacuate before it was too late in a Facebook video posted last night as the fire advanced on the town.
“Don’t wait to leave because this thing came so fast, it was just like minutes and it was here. So if it looks like it’s coming your way, just leave, just go,” Mr Eder said.
“This is Little Brown mountain, which is next to us, going up in smoke at the moment.
“It’s a huge fire. There are still fires burning all around in every direction. That is a big bloody fire, and it hasn’t burned out yet. Hope everyone stays safe.”
Advice – Werri Berri (Bega Valley LGA)There is a fast moving bush fire to the north of Bemboka.Embers are starting spot fires ahead of the main fire front.If you are in the area of Bemboka and Numbugga, watch out for embers and spot fires. Monitor the changing conditions. Follow your bush fire survival plan and know what you will do if the fire threatens.For more information: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/major-fire-updates/mfu?id=8541
Posted by NSW Rural Fire Service on Sunday, December 29, 2019
The town of around 500 residents established the Facebook group – the Bemboka Notice Board – which was used to help locals stay in touch during the last bushfires that hit the region just a year ago.
Throughout the night, residents checked on each other and weighed whether to evacuate from the town through Candelo on the Facebook notice group, while the road remains closed to outside traffic.
Social media strategist Rose Drover posted terrifying videos of the fire burning through paddocks with livestock.
“This afternoon fire ripped through the wilderness behind my family property near Bemboka River. The exact same place burnt out 12 months ago,” she said.
“There are cows in this paddock. I just heard one scream in pain. Horrific.”
— Rose Drover (@WildScied) December 30, 2019
In NSW, the Snowy Mountains Hwy between Brown Mountain and the Princes Hwy intersection has now been closed in both directions due to fire activity.
“We urge you to seriously consider if you should be in this area tomorrow. People in bush fire prone area between Batemans Bay and Bega should move towards a larger town away from bushland areas, such as Narooma, Moruya, Bega and Batemans Bay, before 8am,” an RFS spokesman said.
“If you are in the area from Yankees Gap to Bemboka, your plan is to leave or you are not prepared, leave now towards Bega.
“Protect yourself from the heat of the fire. Wear protective clothing and footwear. Cover all exposed skin.If the fire impacts, seek shelter in a solid structure to protect yourself from the heat of the fire.”
Meanwhile to the north of Bemboka, an emergency warning was issued for residents of Cobargo at 5 am this morning for the Badja Forest Rd fire.
“If you are in the Cobargo area, you are in danger. Act now and do not delay. Conditions may get worse quickly. Leave now towards Bermagui,” an RFS spokesman said.
The bushfire has already closed the Princes Highway in both directions between Cobargo Bermagui Road and Blanchards Road. Traffic is being diverted via Bega and Tathra on Tathra Road returning to Princes Highway at Tilba.
For the latest traffic information in NSW, visit www.livetraffic.com, download the Live Traffic NSW app or call 132 701.
Stay up to date on bushfires in your area by checking the NSW RFS website, listening to your local radio station, or by calling the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.