The bushfire that savaged the Adelaide Hills has been all but contained, but firefighters now face the prospect of blazes in other areas of the state sparked by lightning strikes.
As rain began to fall in the Hills on Wednesday afternoon, the blaze that has burned through 12,500 hectares and destroyed up to 32 homes was declared 95 per cent contained.
A major emergency declaration issued on Saturday was also rescinded and interstate support began returning home.
But despite the relief after six days of desperate resistance, Country Fire Service chief Greg Nettleton said attention will now have to shift to other areas where lightning strikes that came with the rain sparked grass fires.
Mr Nettleton said there were also still hot spots in the Hills, near Paracombe and at the Para Wirra conservation reserve which remained a concern and would take time to put out.
“This rain won’t calm the hot spots – it requires people to do work on them,” Mr Nettleton said.
A number of fires were started by lightning strikes on Wednesday afternoon as thunderstorms rolled over the area, including in Gawler near the main fire.
“They’re a concern not so much for this fireground but for elsewhere in the state as the storms progress because they will initiate new fires which we’ve already experienced just down the road here at Gawler,” Mr Nettleton said.
Areas as far apart as Border Town in the east and Streaky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula in the west are under threat from the storms.
Another fire was started on Wednesday afternoon near the incident command centre at One Tree Hill, believed to have been caused by a lightning strike.
Still, authorities believe they will have the fire fully contained within two days. The number of homes badly damaged or destroyed was also downgraded to 32 from 38.
Premier Jay Weatherill said efforts were now focused on recovery.
“This remains important and also dangerous work. I have nothing but admiration for the skill and for the dedication of the people that are out there,” Mr Weatherill said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has faced criticism for not responding sooner to the crisis despite being overseas, will accompany Mr Weatherill on a tour of the fire zone on Thursday.
However, Mr Weatherill said assistance from the commonwealth to date had been “entirely appropriate and timely”.
Mr Abbott, who will fly into Adelaide on Thursday straight from the Middle East where he’s been visiting troops, is expected to announce further federal support for bushfire victims.
Insurance losses from the fire have already passed $13 million, with more claims expected to be lodged over the coming days and weeks.
A mobilisation plan has been put in place, fire services announced, to return interstate fire fighters to their homes.
Almost 100 crew from New South Wales have already returned.
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 7, 2015
The South Australian fire, described as the worst in the state in 30 years, has been burning since January 2.
Twenty-nine people, mostly firefighters, were reportedly injured and up to 32 homes and 125 outhouses and sheds were confirmed destroyed or severely damaged.
More than 12,000 hectares has been burnt, but no lives have been lost.
Queen Elizabeth has issued a statement praising the firefighters and community volunteers who fought the fires in both South Australia and Victoria, and extending her condolences to the families who lost their homes.