'It blew up': Towns brace for fire moving at 'extraordinary speed' from Victorian border

Rural communities in southern NSW are bracing as a bushfire spreads rapidly from the Victorian border.

NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Potts says the border fire is moving towards the small communities of Burragate and Towamba.

The fire was spreading quickly and "blew up" on Saturday night when a southerly wind change swept through NSW, Mr Potts said.

"This morning Towamba and Burragate are likely to be impacted by the border fire," Mr Potts said on Sunday outside the Bega Valley RFS headquarters.

"We saw extraordinary fire behaviour last night (Saturday). The border fire blew up and there were extraordinary changes where the sky went red.

"The fire basically created its own weather and ran at an extraordinary speed from the NSW border."

Mr Potts said there was "no margin for safety" as crews battled the blaze.

"At one stage the border fire was moving at 6km/h. The lack of visibility is making aerial reconnaissance impossible."

‘Lots of people’ flee the town of Eden

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said "lots of people" had evacuated the town of Eden as the fire approached on Saturday night.

"It's moving a bit further north and towards rural and isolated property just to the west of Eden," he told reporters on Sunday.

"It's still pretty active down there and there is lots of attention from local firefighters."

Containment efforts were hampered overnight after firefighters lost power at an important water pump.

"The border fire that was driven north by a strong southerly change yesterday remains at emergency level, with Eden and the surrounding communities facing dynamic and dangerous bushfire conditions," the Bega Valley Shire Council said at 3.00am on Sunday.

"In a disappointing development, we have lost power to the pump at Ben Boyd Dam and the Kiah borefields.

"We are working to supply water from Pambula to Eden – this will be at a much reduced volume however.

"If you are still in Eden, only use water for personal safety purposes so the firefighters, who are doing such an outstanding job, have water."

Fire jumps major river in Southern Highlands

Firefighters are battling to contain a massive bushfire that has damaged properties in the NSW Southern Highlands after jumping a major river.

There are reports of property damage and destruction in the Southern Highlands towns of Wingello and Bundanoon after the Morton fire jumped the Shoalhaven River on Saturday evening.

The fire, burning at an emergency level on Sunday morning, is effectively a new front of the 281,000-hectare Currowan blaze on the NSW South Coast.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the bushfire jumped the Shoalhaven River when "aggressive" southerly winds swept through the state on Saturday.

"It's effectively the Currowan fire that crossed the Shoalhaven and Kangaroo Rivers under a very aggressive southerly and southeasterly change last night," he told reporters on Sunday morning.

"We saw it cross at a number of locations and it headed towards communities, particularly Wingello and Bundanoon. There are reports of property damage around Wingello and Bundanoon."

An orange hazy sky is seen over Narooma in NSW on Saturday, January 4, 2020.
Eerie orange skies are seen over Narooma on NSW's far south coast. Source: AAP

The fire was spreading quickly on Sunday morning, according to RFS updates.

Firefighters from the RFS Southern Highlands team were working on Sunday morning to map the scale of the Morton fire.

"There's lots of work going on to identify what firefighters can put out and what they can secure, as well as the implementation and consolidation of containment lines over coming days," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

Fears Victorian fire will merge over border

There are still fears a fire in Corryong in Victoria’s northeast could merge with the 270,000-hectare Dunns Road fire in the Snowy Valley roughly 70km away.

Right between the two fires is the East Ournie Creek fire, which is 408 hectares, and could be the bridge for both fires to merge into a mega blaze across the border.

Blazes still threaten communities in Victoria's bushfire-ravaged east where seven people remain missing and almost a million hectares have been destroyed.

About 110 properties and 220 outbuildings have been razed and authorities warn the numbers will likely grow.

Premier Daniel Andrews said there were fears for the safety of people who remained missing in the state.

Among those who have reached safety are about 1200 people ferried from decimated coastal Mallacoota by HMAS Choules.

The sky turns red from the fires in Omeo, Victoria, on January 04, 2020.
The sky turns red from the fires in Omeo as fires rage across East Gippsland. Source: Getty

The Navy vessel reached Hastings, less than an hour's drive from Melbourne, late on Saturday.

"We were running out of food, for starters," a very relieved Jackie Stefanopoulos, 19, said after stepping ashore and to safety, admitting she had been petrified by the bushfires.

"There was no power in the household I was in, or I was seeking refuge in."

The threat remained across parts of Victoria where more than 900,000 hectares of land has been overrun by fire and three emergency warnings remain in place.

About 70 per cent of the 100,000 population of the fire-impacted East Gippsland have fled.

Major highways have been closed for days, phone and powerlines are down, and residents have been told not to drink tap water amid contamination fears.

Heavy smoke has prompted an air quality alert for the Central, North Central, Northern Country, North East and Gippsland Regions by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Fire crews put out spot fires on January 04, 2020 in Sarsfield, Australia
Seven people are missing in Victoria as firefighters work to battle blazes in East Gippsland. Source: Getty

Light rain hoped to bring firefighters respite

Steady rain over the next two days could help fire crews gain more control over massive blazes ravaging Victoria's east and northeast.

Light mist fell on Sunday at some centres including Bairnsdale, on the western edge of the East Gippsland fire ground.

More widespread cooler conditions are expected to bring respite to the affected areas, Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Keris Arndt says.

"The conditions are much cooler, moisture's a lot higher than we've seen over previous days and the winds are also easing off a fair bit, especially through Gippsland today," Mr Arndt told AAP on Sunday.

"Hopefully that gives the fire agencies a bit of a chance to have a go at the fires and try to get a bit more control in there."

However while rain may help dampen the fireground, it could also prove a "double edged" sword for crews by making some areas more difficult to access, Mr Arndt said.

Rain is due to extend across the state, with light falls of up to 15mm forecast through Gippsland and the northeast ranges during the day.

The sprinkling will cover firegrounds up near Mt Hotham as well as fires burning through most of East Gippsland.

"It's really through central Gippsland and the ranges, that's most likely to see most of the rain today," Mr Arndt says.

Meanwhile Cann River and Mallacoota in the far east are only forecast to receive a few millimetres of rain.

Only lighter falls are expected in the northeast too.

"The fires up near Corryong in the far north east probably won't see much rainfall today," Mr Arndt said.

Monday is likely to bring similar light steady rain in the same places, with forecasts of up to 15mm through Gippsland and the ranges before clearing up with some finer days ahead.

"There's not a huge amount of wind and still pretty mild conditions continuing all the way through to mid week," Mr Arndt said.

Kangaroo Island faces deteriorating conditions

Areas of Kangaroo Island continue to burn with authorities warning of deteriorating conditions in coming days as the focus shifts towards damage assessment and recovery from the devastating blaze that has ravaged local communities.

A bushfire advice remains in place for the western half of the island with the eastern edge of the fireground extending from the north to the south coast.

More than 155,000 hectares has been burnt within a 300-kilometre perimeter, including large parts of the Flinders Chase National Park, with many homes, farms and other buildings lost along with tourism and service infrastructure.

Two lives have also been lost with outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son Clayton Lang killed when their car became trapped by flames near Parndana.

The Country Fire Service said on Sunday that while conditions across the island had eased the danger was not over.

"There are still patches of active fire along the fire edge, especially in the area around Stokes Bay," the CFS said.

"Residents need to stay alert for new fires in their area. There is the potential for flare-ups as winds pick up in the afternoon and the risk will increase later in the week with warmer, windier weather."

Water-bombing aircraft will continue to work across the fire zone in coming days as ground crews deal with any new fires and conduct mopping-up operations.

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