Authorities say 11 properties have been damaged in a bushfire that is burning out of control in South Australia’s Lower Yorke Peninsula and 33 people have been treated for minor fire-related injuries.
The fire started during Wednesday’s catastrophic fire conditions and broke through containment lines early this morning, but has since been downgraded to a ‘watch and act’ message.
The Country Fire Service (CFS) message has been issued for Honiton, Edithburgh, Troubridge Point, Wattle Point, Sultana Point, Hungry Point, Coobowie, Port Giles and Seven Roads in the Lower Yorke Peninsula.
The CFS is warning residents in the area to enact their bushfire plans as the fire could threaten their safety.
“If you are not prepared, leave now and if the path is clear, go to a safer place,” the warning said.
Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said crews were still assessing the damage at the fireground, but he believed there had been 11 properties affected.
“The rapid damage assessment teams are moving into the fireground now to make further assessments in relation to damage, particularly around Edithburgh, and also around Price, which is 45 minutes away from Edithburgh, which was also subject to some loss,” Mr Stevens said.
“At this point in time, there are no losses of life identified.
“We had concerns for one elderly gentleman, who has been located safe and sound.”
CFS acting deputy chief officer Rob Sandford said the fire, which has burned through 4,500 hectares, has been halted on the outskirts of Edithburgh.
“So that’s good news for the community, but there’s still significant amount of work that needs to be done throughout the day to consolidate the control lines around that fire edge as well,” he said.
“It’s a vast area that we need to ensure the control line is secured.”
A water bomber has been sent over from New South Wales to join in the firefighting efforts.
While the temperature has dropped at Edithburgh, the Bureau of Meteorology’s John Fisher said strong winds across the fireground remain a concern.
“Certainly [there are] still fresh winds across the fireground and as those winds turn around to the south-west over the next few hours, where they’re going to remain through much of the day, they’ll probably continue to freshen a little bit as well,” Mr Fisher said.
Yorketown property owner Tony Hoare said he had got off “fairly lightly” in comparison to a lot of others.
“My cousin’s place, their house is gone. My other cousin they have lost a huge shed and all machinery — it’s totally gone,” he said.
“Mainly what concerns me is the livestock at the moment.
“I was in the town and I was trying to get out here and couldn’t.
“It was that bad, you couldn’t see with smoke and dust so we were sort of stuck there and couldn’t go anywhere.
“There wasn’t a lot we could do.”
Edithburgh evacuated as fire reaches edge of town
A safe haven has been set up at the Stansbury Bowling Club for residents affected by the fire and the Red Cross has set up a register service for family, friends and loved ones affected by the fire.
Yorke Peninsula Mayor Darren Braund has evacuated his family from Edithburgh.
“The fire jumped some containment lines and police and emergency vehicles were going around trying to alert as many people as they could to get out of the town,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“All of a sudden the whole town just filled with smoke. The visibility was very bad by the time we were leaving.”
He said it was hard to know how many people had evacuated.
“I think people are just in a bit of shock reacting to the situation,” he said.
“I’ve been up all night with some people in the Edithburgh Institute who were evacuated there before they had to leave that position and had to go further north to Stansbury.”
About 400 people live in Edithburgh.
“I know there were about 100 people in the caravan park at the same time so it’s a bit of an unknown,” Mr Braund said.
Adam Pitt, who lives in Stansbury, told ABC Radio Adelaide friends from Edithburgh evacuated to his home.
“Edithburgh has been evacuated and I’ve just had word from a couple of mates who are taking refuge here for a little bit that the fire has just reached Park Terrace on the edge of Edithburgh,” he said.
“A lot of locals at Edithburgh have taken refuge to the manmade water pool and to the jetties.
“There’s also 150 people heading towards Stansbury to the bowls club.
Mr Pitt said his friends were concerned their home may have been lost in the fire.
“They are a little bit shaken at the moment as to be expected as Park Terrace is actually past their house,” he said.
Stansbury Bowls Club secretary Margie Dodd said she got out of bed at 1:00am to set it up as an evacuation centre.
More than 100 people are now sheltering there, and have been fed breakfast this morning.
Ms Dodd said her husband has been out fighting fires overnight, and her family’s crops near Edithburgh had been wiped out, but they managed to save a shed full of machinery and the house next door.
“We’ve just lost the crop but we’ve only lost a little bit compared to what some people have lost,” Ms Dodd said.
“Some people have lost machinery, whole sheds, friends have lost their houses so it’s pretty scary.”
She said she had never seen a fire so bad in the region.
“Not this big, not this fast either,” she said.
“It was a horrific day yesterday, like a totally horrific day.
“My husband, he’s 65 and he said he’s never seen anything move this fast.”
The CFS has also issued a warning about the significant smoke from the Yorke Peninsula which had covered the Adelaide metropolitan area.
It has advised residents to close all doors and windows and to stay indoors if the smoke is causing concern, as well as warning people to take care when driving due to reduced visibility.
There are reports the smoke and dust has reached as far as Mannum and Murray Bridge, east of Adelaide.
There were at least 45 fires across South Australia yesterday as the state sweltered through temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and very strong winds.
Several other fires on Wednesday reached emergency warning levels — including near Angaston in the Barossa Valley and near Port Wakefield — before being downgraded as a result of firefighting efforts.