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RFS prepares for bushfire danger on South Coast this weekend


Jan. 31, 2020

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"You dodge a bullet, but there's another two coming," RFS member Rick James said of the NSW South Coast fires that are lingering and are set to be fanned by worse weather on Saturday.
With the temperature forecast to reach 41 degrees on parts of the South Coast on Saturday, Mr James and his colleagues were using an excavator and relatively cooler weather to get at embers smouldering underground near the town of Basin View.
All along the coast, communities were preparing for a worse day of fires, with a "very high fire danger" warning in place.
The Eurobodalla Council said communities around Tilba, which include historic wooden houses and businesses, were at particular risk on Saturday.
"As a result, the villages of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba will be closed for business on Saturday," the council announced on Facebook.
In the Bega Valley Shire, six houses and 27 outbuildings have been burnt since January 24, along with 15 houses and 66 outbuildings in neighbouring Eurobodalla to the north.
Some were on Yarragee Road on the edge of Moruya. "We were very lucky, because the fire went through halfway up [the road]," Fran Sanders, who lives on a property at the end of the road, said.
"We were staying to defend and thinking, 'Thank heavens it didn't come across here.' "
The three dozen horses Mrs Sanders and her husband, John, host on their property survived unscathed. With the bush burnt around the property, they are not worried about further fires this weekend.
But, Mrs Sanders said, she is afraid for her son-in-law, who lives over the hill. His house and grounds are prepared but the hay in his shed, which Mr Sanders said was worth about $70,000, could come under threat.
"Unless the drought breaks, he's going to need that for the winter," Mrs Sanders said. The drought gripping the region is the worst Mrs Sanders said she had ever seen in the area.
Further south, in the holiday hamlet of Potato Point, RFS crews were on alert for live fires as burnt ground near the road into the town continued to smoulder.
Schools were closed in towns including Narooma and Tilba on Friday. More than 450 properties are without power along the coast.
"It's been a hectic season," Mr James said. But he pointed out many more houses had been saved than lost.
A 14-year-old boy was allegedly seen fanning grass in a paddock near the Princes Highway at Falls Creek about 3.30pm on Thursday, police said.
Moments later, white smoke was seen and flames erupted, police said they were told, adding that the fire was extinguished by members of the public.
The boy was arrested and taken to Nowra police station, where he was charged with intentionally causing fire and being reckless as to its spread.
He was granted strict bail and is due to appear at a Children’s Court on February 20.
As weather conditions worsen towards the weekend, police urged the community to stay vigilant and report suspicious behaviour.
Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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