A bushfire burning in scrub on the Eyre Peninsula is creeping towards Port Lincoln as fire crews prepare for a long night battling the blaze.
By 4pm, the fire front was just 7km from the western outskirts of the town.
Police have closed the Flinders Highway between Cummins and Port Lincoln, and have warned motorists to expect lengthy delays.
Outlying properties in the fire’s path have also been evacuated, but authorities have put off plans to evacuate the local prison.
The blaze is burning at Coomunga, west of Port Lincoln on the lower Eyre Peninsula - a region the Country Fire Service (CFS) had assigned a ‘catastrophic’ fire danger rating for today.
Smoke from the blaze has been blanketing the Port Lincoln area throughout the day, and by mid afternoon, more than 500 hectares of scrubland had been blackened.
Country Fire Service deputy chief officer Andrew Lawson said about 120 firefighters were currently battling the blaze, along with five fixed-wing water bombers.
“Our firefighting efforts are concentrating on the eastern flank of this to contain the fire before it moves and threatens Port Lincoln and the outskirts of Pt Lincoln,” Mr Lawson said.
“We are asking people to implement their bushfire survival plan and to maintain a constant watch and listen to any warning and messages that we issue in regards to this bushfire.”
He said Metropolitan Fire Service crews from Whyalla and Port Augusta had been called in earlier today to assist the firefight.
While the cause of the fire is still unknown, Mr Lawson said lightning had been reported in the region and the weather was still playing a big factor in the firefight effort.
“The wind change has moved the fire in a more easterly direction, but that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet,” he said.
“We still have concerns for the outskirts of Port Lincoln this afternoon and this evening.
“It is still a threat, this fire could still move towards Port Lincoln.”
He said there have been no reports of damage to houses or any other structures, but there was still a threat.
Closer to Adelaide, fire crews have been battling fires at Regency Park, Mt Torrens, Gumeracha and Ashbourne.
Catastrophic fire danger ratings had been issued for the Yorke Peninsula, and the lower and eastern Eyre Peninsula.
The Mt Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island, Mid North, North West Pastoral, West Coast and Lower South East districts have all been issued with an extreme fire danger rating.
The catastrophic fire danger rating also forced the closure of 17 schools on the Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas, while reserves and national parks across the state were closed.
A week ago, a bushfire on the lower Eyre Peninsula threatened the town of Tulka, destroying a home, 12 cabins and several vehicles, and blackening almost 2000 hectares.
CFS has determined that blaze was started by lightning.