27 December 2019

Safety first: Kings Highway closed for a month or more as fires continue to burn

| Alex Rea
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Government Bend

Government Bend on the Kings Highway after the Currowan Fire. Photo: Supplied.

Fire damage to the Kings Highway is likely to keep the main artery from Canberra to the south coast closed for a month or more.

NSW Minister for Transport and Roads and Member for Bega Andrew Constance, Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes and Acting General Manager Warren Sharpe made the announcement this morning in Moruya citing safety concerns.

Acknowledging that businesses along the coast are hurting from the lack of tourists in the peak holiday season, Mayor Innes said: “As soon as we can give the green light and say ‘come on down’ again to our visitors, we will.”

Mr Constance said the Currowan fire has jumped the Kings Highway several times and is burning on two fronts towards the top of the mountain.

According to Mr Sharpe, “the fire is making its way down along the Kings Highway, where it has burnt very hot through the top of the Clyde. The Monga fire is burning south and will join up with the Kings Highway fire”.

“There is no stopping this thing. There are a lot of trees down. We just can’t put road workers in there.”

In a small piece of good news, the Carwoola Fire Brigade has confirmed that Pooh Bear’s Cave on the Kings Highway is safe. Reporting via social media, Carwoola RFS says that while the fire has burned all around, “the beloved fluffy toys at Pooh Corner are all ok. Thanks to Carwoola Deputy Captain Lewis Conn and his crew for checking during one of their night shifts”.

Pooh's Corner

Carwoola RFS have confirmed that Pooh Bear’s Cave is safe on the Kings Highway. Photo: Facebook.

Fire activity increased across the fireground yesterday in the Monga National Park, east of Tudor Valley Road.

The RFS said that “a large edge continues to burn to the north of Monga Lane moving south through the Monga National Park. The fire continues to move slowly south through heavy bush which is difficult to access in many places”.

“Currently two aircraft are working across the fire ground today to assist with fire suppression, with a third assigned to detect hotspots and feed intelligence back to the Incident Management Team as visibility allows.

“Australian Defence Force personnel are tasked to carry out strategic planning in inaccessible terrain.”

Currowan fire

The Currowan fire is burning through the Clyde Mountain. Photo: Andrew Constance.

With 40 per cent of the Eurobodalla Shire ravaged by the Currowan bushfire, and the Charleys Forest fire still active from the top of the Clyde and making its way north through the Morton National Park, a new threat comes from the Araluen Road fire.

This fire in the Deua River Valley ignited yesterday and is burning in inaccessible terrain. Two water bombing air tractors, a helicopter and multiple ground crews are fighting the fire. RFS and NSW Police are investigating the cause of the fire.

“It’s really important the RFS get on top of the Araluen fire,” Mr Constance said. “They did an amazing job last night in the Araluen Valley.

“We absolutely give our appreciation to those out there keeping our communities safe. Forestry, National Parks & Wildlife Service, Local Land Services, Council, Health and NSW Police have been working around the clock with the RFS to keep the community safe.

“We can ill afford any other fire events in this shire. We have a major fire to contend with, and an outbreak on Araluen Road. We cannot afford our resources being stretched any further. We need to get over a very dangerous period over the next four or five days,” Mr Constance said.

Kings Highway

Burnt trees dangling over the Kings Highway on Clyde Mountain. Photo: Supplied

The Bureau of Meteorology says that while temperatures should be lower than last week’s near 50-degree maximums, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra and western Sydney are all forecast to see at least one day in the high-30s or low-40s before the end of 2019.

Mayor Innes said: “Everyone from Batemans Bay to Moruya needs to have their fire plans ready to enact. Look after one another.

“The best thing you can do for the RFS right now is to make sure your house is safe and that your fire plan is ready to enact. We will get through this.”

Kings Highway

Buckled roadway along the Kings Highway at Clyde Mountain. Photo: Supplied.

While the holiday period has been very quiet at the coast, traffic has increased down the Brown Mountain route via Cooma after Christmas. Businesses from Braidwood to Bega are reeling from the lack of tourist trade.

Mayor Innes urged local and visitors to be aware and have a fire plan in place.

“No-one can be as prepared as someone who lives locally, so tourists need to be aware as everybody else down here.”

The Nerriga/Braidwood Road through to Nowra is also still closed and there is still major work required in the Sassafras area.

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency.

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Hi I have a family member having cancer treatment twice a week we live in Bateman’s bay and need to get to Canberra as do lots of families on the South coast due to limited medical in our area the cost has now doubled for travel more accurate info eg near future or months make it hard to plan coming appointments we have already missed a treatment as the Bateman’s bay had no petrol .We are not the only family affected !!!

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