Residents in Sydney’s south-west have been battered by an “aggressive” and “volatile” bushfire, which tore through 2500 hectares before conditions eased.
More than 500 firefighters, along with 15 water-bombing helicopters, were continuing to fight the blaze on Sunday evening.
But some residents were beginning to relax in the Holsworthy and Menai area when the fire was downgraded to a watch-and-act level about 5.30pm.
Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan confirmed some houses had been impacted by the blaze, which started on Saturday.
“What we don’t have information on is the type of damage and number of properties,” he said.
An emergency warning had been issued early on Sunday afternoon, when strong winds pushed the flames northeast towards homes.
Menai resident Goran Bubnjevic was supposed to be at a wedding on Sunday but instead – after sending his three kids off to safety – he spent the day holding back the bushfire with his wife.
It “was right next to our fence”, he told AAP.
Well a bushfire in suburban #Sydney in mid April is probably one of the stranger things to happen in #WattleGrove. One minute we were having family lunch for the Sri Lankan new year and the next, our street was engulfed in smoke. All g now and thanks for all the messages 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/CvdWwMAOuc
— Avani (@AvaniDias) April 15, 2018
“It was very, very close.
“We fought it with the hose and by passing buckets through to the volunteers.
“It was pretty bad. It came pretty quick when the wind came towards us.”
Mr Bubnjevic, 46, said the wind picked up about 10.30am on Sunday and smoke could be seen coming over the hill.
“That’s when I said to the kids pack up, you go and we’ll stay and try and fight the fire.”
Michael Borg lives on Hall Drive in Menai alongside bushland and said it was “concerning”.
“That’s for sure, I’m not going to lie to you,” he said, when finally opening a beer shortly before 5pm.
“It was pretty scary. This afternoon it came pretty close.”
Mr Borg has only lived on Hall Drive for 18 months and said he’s lucky the house came with sprinklers on the roof, which he used this weekend.
His brother-in-law, Michael Ball, was on hand to help put out the flames as they approached the house.
“He had the sprinklers on the roof and we had the hoses ready,” Mr Ball said.
Currently we have nearly 900 firefighters working on 48 bush and grass fires across NSW. 500 of those crews are working on the fire burning near Holsworthy and Menai. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/sNShlzlQ3y
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) April 14, 2018
“Then when these [RFS] guys got here with their proper hoses and stuff, they had it all under control.
“We’re ready to have a couple of beers now.”
Just down the street Chris Pond, 33, revealed that he took his mother out of Menai on Saturday night “just to make sure”.
They then returned on Sunday to keep an eye on things.
He and his nephew wet down the roof and garden to ensure embers couldn’t take hold and start a fire.
“It was definitely a bit too close for comfort,” he said on Sunday evening.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons earlier described the “volatile, dynamic and dangerous fire” as behaving “aggressively”.
He said conditions would continue to be tough for firefighters for the rest of the week, and meaningful rain was needed.
There has been some amazing work done by firefighter from all agencies. Despite the horrific conditions, there have been no reports of homes being lost. A lot of very hard work still to be done today. @FRNSW #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/pg0iOMIp8M
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) April 14, 2018
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday commended firefighters on their “outstanding efforts” and “extraordinary courage”.
He said it had been “unseasonably hot”.
It comes after a train drove through spot fires on the T8 Airport and South line, according to video shared on social media.
“It’s jumped the line already. Why’s the train still going?” a passenger could be heard saying.
“It smells,” another said in the video.
The line was later closed, with buses replacing trains, and reopened in both directions on Sunday afternoon.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance has requested the incident be referred to the Office of Transport Safety Investigations for review.
Hundreds of residents evacuated on Saturday before the fire was downgraded to a watch-and-act level on Sunday morning. The emergency warning was then re-issued early on Sunday afternoon due to strong winds.
Fire investigators and police are working to establish how the fire was started.
NSW Police on Sunday evening announced a task force had been set up to investigate whether the fire, which began in the vicinity of Leacocks Reserve in Casula, was deliberately lit.
Conditions are expected to aid the firefighting effort on Monday, with winds about half the strength they were on Sunday. The temperature may remain a cause for concern, according to the RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers.
“Still quite a difficult day ahead (on Monday),” he told the Nine Network.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go before we’re out of the woods.”