5 January 2020

UPDATED: Eden threat eases, wood chip mill hit by blaze, Batemans Bay power out

| Genevieve Jacobs
Join the conversation

It was a tough night across the South East for many communities. Photo: File,

UPDATE, Sunday January 5, 6 pm : The RFS is reporting that the Border fire which had again threatened Eden earlier today has eased and is now classified as Watch and Act.

Heavy smoke blanketed the town for the day and it’s been confirmed that the Eden woodchip mill has been impacted but the extent of damage is not known at this stage.

The fire has merged with the Poole Rd fire and continues to burn south of Eden. It has impacted the areas of Wonboyn, Kiah, Narrabarba and surrounds. The fire also spread on its western edge near Burragate.

Part of the fire is still burning in inaccessible country and continues to head in a northwesterly direction towards Bombala.

Building impact assessment teams will be deployed to assess damage to properties.

The Snowy Mountains Highway from the Princes Highway up and over Brown Mountain is now open for travel to Canberra and beyond. Drivers should exercise care as visibility is low.

In the Eurobodalla, residents are returning home except for those living in the Deua, Pollwombra and Larry’s Mountain Road areas west of Moruya, where NSW RFS continues to monitor fire activity in that area.

The highest fire rating over the next seven days is high fire danger on Friday. In that window of opportunity, NSW Rural Fire Service will do what they can to contain the fires.

The Princes Highway between Moruya and Mogo remains closed but detours are possible via George Bass Drive and North Head Drive. Broulee Road is closed and Araluen Road remains closed. Please drive carefully and be aware of conditions

Power is now on from North Moruya and all areas south to Tilba. Batemans Bay and the coastal areas south to Broulee might be without power for up to one week. There is significant electricity infrastructure damage in the north of the shire, which crews are unable to safely access due to fire impacts.

Additional Essential Energy crews are expected to arrive tomorrow to assist with repairs once NSW RFS has approved access to the fire-impacted assets.

All Eurobodalla residents should be conservative with water use until further notice. There is no need to water down your house or yard unless fire or embers are visible.

UPDATE Sunday, January 5, 1 pm: Eden is once again under direct threat from the border fire. There have been conflicting reports on evacuation orders but everyone remaining in the town has been urged to leave immediately to the north.

A number of people have been sheltering around the Snug Cove Wharf and Aslings Beach but police have told them they are not safe and that evacuation centres in Merimbula and Bega are the safest options.

There have been concerns that the north road out of town in heavily timbered but is now the only feasible way out of town. Anyone remaining in Eden needs to seek shelter immediately.

Earlier reports indicated that flames have jumped the Nullica River on the western side of the highway and that the Kiah church and hall were both gutted by the blaze.

People living south of Eden should not return to their homes under any circumstances. Residents in the areas of Towamba, Burragate and Nethercote are being told it is too late to leave, they should seek immediate shelter from the fire.

Everyone is urged to drive safely and drive with your headlights on given the extremely smoky conditions and very poor visibility.

Sunday January 5, midday: There is some respite with cooler conditions across the South East this morning, but it was a brutal battle on the far South Coast, where terrified residents leaving Eden described the fire as coming like a freight train from the border.

In Cooma, where skies were already blackened by late afternoon yesterday, the Cooma North main water tank burst around 9 pm, deluging the area with millions of litres of precious water. In a statement this morning, NSW Police said the town would still have drinking water after council officers managed to save the second tank.

In Canberra, residents woke to thick blanketing smoke. A state of alert remains current although there are no fires burning in the ACT. The Adaminaby complex fire is at advice level this morning.

Around Eden last night, the anticipated southerly change brought the fire up from the Victorian border as far as the southern shores of Twofold Bay at remarkable speed. There had been fears for several days about whether Eden would prove defensible, and late yesterday afternoon, buses evacuated around 150 people to Merimbula from the Eden Fisherman’s Club.

Late last night Region Media staff spoke to a local from Eden who was sheltering at Merimbula between the lake and the sea. She described the Eden fire as wide and coming like a freight train, and frankly terrifying.

Greg Potts from the RFS said this morning at a briefing in Bega that the fire behaviour had been extraordinary around Eden. He described extraordinary fire behaviour under a deep red sky, as pyro-convective smoke columns moved the fire rapidly.

This morning, fire is moving through the area of Wonboyn, Kiah, Narrabarba and surrounds. Aircraft support is ready to respond in the Wonboyn area as soon as conditions allow.

If you are in the areas of Barragate and Towamba, it is too late to leave. The fire was expected mid-morning and the RFS is advising that you seek shelter as the fire approaches and protect yourself from the heat of the fire – be in the village.

If you are in the areas of Wyndham, Rocky Hall, Nethercote, Eden and surrounds, continue to monitor conditions and be prepared to act should conditions change.

Bermagui community township has not been impacted. There is still fire to the south and west. Anyone who is still in town should stay in place.

Merimbula, Pambula and surrounds are also not under any current threat.

The Princess Highway remains closed at Broadwater as are a number of other local roads in the Bega Valley. The Snowy Mountains Highway is still closed as of this morning after the Werri Berri fire ripped through late yesterday. The vital link to Canberra and the Monaro will re-open as soon as possible.

In the Eurobodalla, NSW RFS report there are still active fires in Eurobodalla but conditions are also much milder.

People are safe to start making their way home, except in around north Batemans Bay, where there is no access west of the highway, including Bay Ridge. Around north Moruya there is also no access west of the highway, including Shelley Road, Pollwombra Road areas.

Residents of these areas should remain where they are while NSW RFS monitor fire activity.

The Princes Highway between Moruya and Mogo is closed but detours are possible via George Bass Drive and North Head Drive which are open. Broulee Road is closed and the Araluen Road remains closed

Power outages continue as a result of fires further north. Essential Energy crews are working around the clock in difficult conditions to return power to the shire. Generators are in place at the evacuation centres in Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma, and at the Tuross Head Country Club. They are also located to support critical infrastructure including water supply, hospitals and aged care facilities, and some petrol stations.

On fuel, Transport for NSW has prioritised fuel deliveries to the far south coast as soon as the highway can be re-opened.

Reservoirs the length of the coast are dropping fast and residents in all areas have been urged to conserve water wherever possible in order to reserve it for emergency use.

Temperatures will be very much cooler today. The Bureau of Meteorology says than Canberra can expect around 27 degrees at most with a Southeasterly becoming easterly in the late afternoon. The very thick smoke blanketing the city means that there is a road weather alert and the reduced visibility is making driving dangerous.

ACT Health says you should avoid exposure to the smoke by staying indoors where possible and not using evaporative air conditioners which draw air into the house from outside. P2 and N95 face masks are relatively effective but only if they are fixed properly. They will become ineffective if moist.

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on The RiotACT.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Is it not possible to have underground bunkers at strategic points as it appears it is becoming increasingly impossible to control the fires above ground? it was these bunkers that saved many lives during the 2nd World War and with modern technology and fireproof materials could it not be possible to have a series of fireproof tunnels etc in the vulnerable areas? i’m sure that investors could be found willing to consider such schemes when you take into consideration the cost of the operations going on at present to control this tragic situation?

Help Please. I would like a clear picture of the situation at the Bay – basically it has been the fire has passed through these areas (fnm), but there is no clear info of the extent of damage, other the isolated reports referring to Malua Bay club and some houses, video of Betta and maybe bunnings being destroyed! I take it that some (many?) houses were burnt, but the actual extent is confusing based on very partial info. I live at Long Beach, but was in canberra when the Clyde was closed – missed by 1/2 hour! I have chosen to stay away so 1 less person to consider and uncertainty as to closures of other routes and the needs of family in Cbr.
could you please cover the situation as it exists for me and many others who are, no doubt, in the same situation.
I must add that you video reports have been very well done; one covering the above would be great

Louise Hicks1:05 pm 05 Jan 20

Thank you Genevieve and to the team behind you.

Your coverage and the information is exceptional.

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.