Residents on alert near Newcastle after fires breached containment lines


Firefighters are working to contain a blaze north of Newcastle that had the potential to threaten homes on Sunday afternoon, as temperatures soared above 37 degrees.

The Rural Fire Service issued a “watch and act” notice about 3pm on Sunday for people with homes along Nelson Bay Road between Medowie and Richardson roads. This was downgraded to “advice” level later in the afternoon after weather conditions eased slightly, the RFS said.

The blaze had burnt through 350 hectares of land near Williamtown Airport and was now heading in a southerly direction towards Nelson Bay Road.

RFS spokesman Paul Best said 72 firefighters and two aircraft were attending to the fire, which had spotted embers past containment lines in Williamtown. Units were positioned to extinguish the blaze before it reached property, he said.

“Earlier today the fire breached containment lines and it’s moving towards property on Nelson Bay Road,” Mr Best said.

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“There is no property under direct threat as there are a number of firefighting units on the scene there and they are waiting for that fire to come out so they can extinguish it.”

Nelson Bay Road was closed between Richardson Road and Cabbage Tree Road, although police were allowing travellers through to Newcastle Airport. Medowie Road was also closed due to smoke, the RFS said.

Nelson Bay is a popular summer vacation spot and temperatures in the area reached 37.4 degrees just after 2pm on Sunday.

It came as out-of-control bushfires were threatening homes near Wodonga in Victoria, just south of the NSW border, and at Scotsburn near Ballarat.

The Wodonga blaze was becoming more complex, with a cool change poised to bring a potentially dangerous shift in winds, firefighters said.

On Saturday, 20 people were taken to hospital as a heatwave sent temperatures skyrocketing to 41.2 degrees in Melbourne and 44.4 degrees in Geelong.

Meanwhile in NSW, another fire breached containment lines in remote bushland near Thredbo. The Granuaille Mountain blaze, in the Kosciuszko National Park, has been burning since Wednesday and on Sunday morning breached a retardant containment line that was constructed late on Saturday.

The RFS said the nearby Alpine Way would be closed from midday on Sunday between Dead Horse Gap and Khancoban, blocking the road west of Thredbo. The resort was expected to remain open.

Mr Best said the fire posed no threat to people or property at this stage, but was still of concern to firefighters.

“Any fire that’s burning today is of concern with the hot and windy conditions that we’re experiencing right around NSW,” he said.

The Tom Groggin and Geehi camp grounds were closed, and visitors were asked to leave as a precaution, Mr Best said.

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