Fire authorities on alert for dangerous weekend

Fire authorities are on alert for a dangerous weekend in south-east Australia after crews spent another day fighting blazes still burning out of control.

Fire authorities on alert for dangerous weekend

Fire authorities on alert for dangerous weekend

The situation remains serious in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. More than 100 bushfires are burning in New South Wales alone, and 18 are uncontained.

A number of new fires sprung up in hot conditions on Friday in the north and west of New South Wales, but property damage has been averted.

With high temperatures and strong winds forecast for today, a total fire ban will remain in place across the state until at least Sunday.

Three major fires still burning in the Cooma, Yass and Nowra regions remain the major focus of the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

Peter McKechnie from the RFS says they are focussing on containing these major fires, including the blaze in the Shoalhaven area near Nowra.

"Throughout the conditions over the weekend this fire could prove problematic," he said.

"People should just stay aware of the fire in the area, we don't have any properties under direct threat, but as most people would be aware by now, there are trying conditions coming in many areas, especially in the southern half of the state."

Firefighters in the state's south-east have also been working to contain the blaze near Cooma, which has burnt-out more than 10,000 hectares and destroyed more than 400 sheep.

One home has so far been lost in the blaze, which is affecting the Kybeyan Valley.

Cooma RFS spokesman Fred Nichols says communities in the area should be on alert.

"For all the people in the Nimmitabel, Steeple Flat and Brown Mountain area and right across there, it is a case of we have to have everyone aware," he said.

The RFS has also hinted that conditions could become catastrophic for the region on Monday.

RFS spokeswoman Bridie O'Connor says residents near the fires need to stay alert.

"We are just asking residents in that Sussex Inlet area to just stay up to date with what's going on down in the area of Yass at the eastern end of the Burrinjuck dam," she said last night.

"In the Yarrabin fire, which is in the Cooma-Monaro area, there may well be some stronger winds this evening that may well put pressure on the eastern side of the fire in the Kybeyan Valley."

Homes threatened

A fire at Kangaroo Ground, in Melbourne's north-east, has now been contained after threatening several homes and burning through about 20 hectares.

Firefighters will remain on the scene putting out embers and an investigator will look into the cause of the blaze.

And a fire which destroyed three farm sheds in the Daylesford area has also been brought under control, but a watch-and-act message remains in place for the Hepburn Springs area.

Firefighters are worried a wind change would see a 100-hectare blaze at nearby Blampied jump containment lines, but another fire burning at Greendale, south-east of Daylesford, has been contained.

Tasmania fire threat far from over

Tasmanian crews are spending the night on the Tasman Peninsula in the south-east, working on two bushfires which still have active fronts.

The Forcett fire remains on a watch-and-act warning, and 12 crews are still working on its active fronts. Five communities are still at the advice level.

Wind gusts have caused fire boundaries near Kellevie, Bream Creek and Marion Bay to flare up on Friday afternoon, while residents south of the fire front have also been kept on alert.

Residents south of Eaglehawk Neck, along Blow Hole Road to Doo Town, should remain vigilant, but there is no direct threat to communities.

The Fire Service says more than 160 firefighters spent the night backburning on the Tasman Peninsula in the south-east where two bushfires are burning uncontained.

Returning home

After being closed for a week the highway between Hobart and Port Arthur was re-opened to residents and property owners yesterday.

For many in towns like Dunalley and Murdunna, there was only debris to sift through.

Sam Chaffey lost the shack he built with his father in 1954 and everything in it.

"A lot of memories, all the photographs and all the things in there," he said.

Roger Brown was luckier - his Murdunna property was saved by firefighters as flames hit the deck.

"Obviously five minutes could have been devastating for us," he said.

The Arthur Highway will re-open to all traffic from 6:00pm (AEDT) tomorrow with the speed limit of 60 kilometres per hour, as crews work to restore services.

Chief fire officer Mike Brown says crews are taking advantage of the mild conditions.

"It's now a week since the worst fires we've had in Tasmania that we've experienced since 1967 have started," he said.

"While many of the fires are still burning and there's much more to be done, conditions have moderated and provided us with an opportunity to contain sectors of those fires, particularly those around the at-risk communities."

Mr Brown says he is confident the bushfire risk remains low enough for residents of the state's devastated south-east peninsulas to start returning home.

"[Firefighters] have been making some really good progress in the last two days," he said.

"The next two or three days are going to give us more opportunities to make the community areas, particularly down on the Tasman Peninsula, more secure.

"It is likely then in remote pockets we'll still have some fire activity."

He says although a man has been charged for leaving a campfire unattended, sparking the Lake Repulse blaze, for the most part, people respected last week's catastrophic fire warnings.

"In so many ways I think the Tasmanian community responded marvellously because we had a total fire ban in the southern region on the Thursday, we had a state-wide total fire ban on the Friday and we in effect got very few new fire starts through that period," he said.

Mr Brown warned the fire threat remained across the state for the next eight to 12 weeks.

Crews are also hopeful of containing the large Montumana bushfire in the state's north-west, which has so far burnt more than 3,000 hectares and destroyed two shacks.

About six millimetres of rain fell on the fire this morning and more showers are forecast for the weekend.

Barry Davies from the Parks and Wildlife Service says the threat of flare-ups remains, but the fire is close to being contained.

"The main fire front has now died right down, so three sides they're just getting a lot of blackening out, and on the fourth side, the southern side, they're just working on some breaks," he said.

Charges laid

Two boys were charged on Friday for lighting a grass fire in Sydney's south-west.

Police say they picked up the boys - aged 12 and 17 - on Friday afternoon after a fire near the M5 in Eagle Vale burnt two hectares of grassland behind homes.

The pair were arrested and charged over the fire and are expected to face Campbelltown Children's Court.

Two men were also charged over a separate fire that started at Tregear, near Mt Druitt, on Friday morning.

Police say the men lit up leaves and sticks and then put an aerosol can in the flames.

They will face Penrith court charged with setting crown land alight and disobeying a total fire ban.

Meanwhile, two 16-year-olds appeared in court on Friday, accused of lighting nine fires that threatened homes along a road at Macquarie Fields on Thursday night.

Australian fires as photographed from space. Photo: NASA, Chris Hadfield. Click to see more images