A forecast wind change could blow a bushfire burning in South Australia’s southern Flinders Ranges back towards the rural township of Wilmington, the Country Fire Service says.
The weather bureau has issued a severe fire weather warning for the area for tomorrow with temperatures to reach the mid 30s and strong wind gusts expected.
More than 200 firefighters and five water bombers are battling the blaze, which has scorched about 8,000 hectares of land.
The bushfire moved towards Wilmington yesterday, prompting the Country Fire Service (CFS) to declare it a threat to homes and lives.
That danger reduced as firefighters battled throughout the night, but the fire continues to burn uncontrolled.
CFS state coordinator Brenton Eden says aerial water bombers were grounded yesterday because of smoke but have today dumped water onto the fire’s north-eastern front.
He says a wind change forecast for around sunrise tomorrow could hamper attempts to control it.
“This fire will continue to grow in all directions overnight until the north-westerly winds tomorrow. They will be associated with we believe 5 to 10 millimetres of rain,” he said.
“However, with all good news there’s a sting – we are facing 11 fire bans tomorrow across the state. All [of those are] severe, including the Flinders Ranges.
“So whilst we have a window of opportunity that goes through until sunrise tomorrow, we have a period of high danger tomorrow between sunrise and the arrival of any moisture over the fire ground.
“It is not likely that this fire will come under control for several days, many days. This will be very much a wind-driven fire.”
He says large fire breaks have been established around Wilmington.
“We have increased the level of asset protection in Wilmington with the arrival of a Metropolitan Fire Service strike team to protect that community,” he said.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Simon Timcke says firefighters face a difficult task.
“With those freshening and becoming gusty northerly winds, probably with some fairly dry air as well, it’s the sort of weather conditions that would cause the firefighters some concern,” he said.
But he says some relief may be on the way.
“At some stage during Saturday afternoon, I would expect to see some showers develop, possibly even the chance of a thunderstorm up there and with a bit of luck some rainfall totals significant enough to help them in their efforts in fighting that fire.”
Hundreds of sheep and other stock have been killed, along with native wildlife.
Local grazier Brenton Stevens managed to save his cattle by moving them to a bare paddock but says much of his land was burnt.
“We have two acres left, so we expect the cattle – they’re fat now – but whether they’ll keep fat for the next six months on two acres, one doesn’t know,” he said.
Other farmers were not as lucky, with hundreds of sheep being put down.
Firefighters from around the state have been called in as reinforcements and several roads in the area remain closed.
Total Fire Bans have been declared in eleven of the state’s districts for tomorrow.