Prepare for the long haul

RFS community liaison officer Marty Webster speaking at Nethercote Hall.
RFS community liaison officer Marty Webster speaking at Nethercote Hall.

While the message remains one of upbeat encouragement for tourists to return to the towns where the main impact has been economic, in more rural areas landholders are being told to be prepared and try and manage their anxiety.

At a meeting at Nethercote Hall on Wednesday evening, January 15, residents were warned to take a break while they could because they had to be in it for the longhaul.

In his summary, RFS community liaison officer Marty Webster said he hoped it would be weeks rather than months but warned there was still "an awful lot of fire in the landscape".

Talking about the Border Fire to the south he said that what was there wasn't just one black landscape because the fire had spotted ahead leaving gaps of unburnt material that were likely to be burnt over the coming weeks.

"On the night of the 4th morning of the 5th you would have seen fire had pulled up on your doorstep, in the back of Ruggs Road," Mr Webster said.

As it came out onto cleared land the RFS moved into property protection but he said it had been a stretch, and really challenging to date.

"We have to look at how we can manage the resources right across the firegrounds," he said with fires further north and in the Monaro High Country.

"Resources are stretched right across NSW.

"We have been really watching Mitchells Creek Fire Trail, Ben Boyd Rd area, there's really active fire around there," Mr Webster said referring to areas east of Towamba.

There is concern that it could move north and east under a south westerly inflence, but Mr Webster said they can deal with the fire better as it pushed out into more open country where the intensity is lower.

Nethercote Hall was packed for the community bushfire meeting.

Nethercote Hall was packed for the community bushfire meeting.

He warned that the forests contained high fuel loads with large logs that were effectivly "kiln dried" and would be readily available to the fire.

Mr Webster told residents that they should look at learning to live with a "campaign fire" one that was ongoing.

"People have still got to live their lives with this beast hanging around in our backyard and I know that's not easy."

He said people needed to manage anxiety.

"We need to fit this fire into our lives and we need to keep living. We need to be able to let anxiety levels drop on days that are low risk," Mr Webster said.

He urged everyone to take a break from the anxiety on Low-Moderate, or High Fire Danger days.

"Watch for fire danger ratings - as they go up seek for more information. On a day of Very High check every couple of hours and on a day of Severe I would like to think that everyone is well and truly acting on their budhfire survival plans," Mr Webster said.

"There will be days when it flares up. We will be living with it for some time. This fire is 160,000ha, it's not going away.

"That's not to say we're not going to throw everything we've got at it, but it's just a reality."