Two elderly residents from South Australia’s bushfire zone who were earlier declared missing have been found safe and well, police say.
A police spokesman confirmed the pair, a Kersbrook man and Cudlee Creek woman, were safe, but said no other details were currently available.
The Sampson Flat bushfire continues to burn out-of-control in the Adelaide Hills and has blackened more than 11,000 hectares.
Police road blocks were earlier set up to control traffic in and out of the area, but police are allowing some residents who fled the fire to go back home.
Premier Jay Weatherill said people would only be allowed to return with permission from authorities.
“There are parts of the fire grounds which are becoming safer than other parts of the fire ground and consideration is being given to inviting people back to assist in the fire effort to protect their own homes when it’s safe to do so,” he said.
“But, once again, the overarching advice we have is listen to the advice of the authorities.”
Mr Weatherill said falling branches were presenting a hazard in the area and praised the 800 firefighters who have battled the blaze.
Twenty-two people, mostly firefighters, have suffered minor injuries, including burns and smoke inhalation.
The total extent of the damage is yet to be assessed, and there has been no update to the number of houses lost, with 12 confirmed to have been destroyed and fears for 20 more.
Eric Trusz from Lower Hermitage managed to save his new home, but lost his old residence on the property.
“I was involved in the Ash Wednesdays and this was far worse, far worse,” he said.
“I just feel sorry for people that have lost more than us. The only thing I’m thankful for is that nobody’s lost their lives.”
Water bombers, including air tankers operating out of the Edinburgh RAAF base, today continued drops over the fire ground.
Islands of land surrounded by sea of scorched earth
Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton surveyed the fire ground from the air alongside Mr Weatherill and said it could have been much worse.
“The number of property losses is quite low relative to the number of properties that, from what we observed, are undamaged,” he said.
“There are lots of islands of unburnt areas within the total perimeter of the fire.”
Mr Nettleton said crews would work to establish control lines around unburnt areas ahead of more forecast hot conditions on Wednesday.
Thermal imaging cameras will also be used for the next few weeks so hot spots can be doused before flaring up.
Police Commissioner Gary Burns said a person who was not a resident was arrested on North East Road at Tea Tree Gully after repeatedly trying to breach a control point.
He said 30 vehicles were turned away from one checkpoint and residents looking to return home should monitor the SA Alert website for further information.
“Our main priority … is to try and return people home as soon as possible and we thank the residents for their patience because I know it’s trying,” he said.
“The other aspect is obviously to have a good look at and finalise what the damage bill is to this area.
“A lot of that can’t be achieved until the fire ground’s safe.”
Mr Burns said investigations were continuing into the cause of the fire, but an incinerator remained the likely cause.
Disaster assistance funds are available for those affected by the fire.
Grants of up to $700 per family and $280 per adult will be offered for essentials such as food and clothing.
Up to two weeks of emergency accommodation will also available to those unable to return to their homes.
CFS downgrade fire to ‘watch and act’ alert
A number of townships remain under threat including Williamstown to the north, and Inglewood in the south.
On Sunday morning the CFS downgraded the fire from an emergency to a “watch and act” alert.
Assistant chief officer Malim Watts told 891 ABC Adelaide weather conditions had improved, resulting in the downgraded alert, but warned against complacency as the fire was still dangerous.
“So the immediate threat to life and property in terms of a large push by the fire has eased, but it is by no means controlled,” Mr Watts said.
“This fire is still burning on all perimeters. It’s not contained and it will require significant resourcing over today and the next few days and in fact probably the week and beyond in order to bring this fire under control.”
Police Commissioner Burns said a number of people had been turning up at roadblocks because of the downgraded alert, but warned the fire was still dangerous.
“What they haven’t realised is that it is still an unsafe area and whilst there’s the perimeter of the fire burning there’s still lots of areas within that fire ground that are still uncontrolled fires,” Mr Burns said.
“We’re aiming to have people return this morning but as I said, this will all depend on the CFS advice when it comes to safety in the area.”