Worsening fire conditions ahead for SA

AAP

Authorities are preparing for potentially catastrophic weather conditions that could fan a blaze that has already ripped through 13,000 hectares and destroyed or badly damaged 26 homes in the Adelaide Hills.

Firefighters from Victoria and NSW were set to reinforce 700 South Australian counterparts already battling the bushfire which has burned out of control since it began on Friday at Sampson Flat on Adelaide's northeastern edge.


The boost in numbers on the ground comes ahead of deteriorating weather conditions, with the temperature forecast to hit 38C on Tuesday and again on Wednesday when a late change could also bring shifting winds and the possibility of thunderstorms.

Authorities on Monday said there had been no major change to the fire's 238km perimeter, which was continuing to burn out of control on Adelaide's northeastern fringe, but warned Wednesday loomed as the "day of highest potential" for further havoc.

Premier Jay Weatherill on Monday said the response to the fire was now focused on three key areas: containing the blaze; clearing roads to help restore services; and protecting more than 1000 homes in the fire zone which are "surrounded by fuel that could ignite".


Almost 13,000 hectares of the hills have been blackened with the fire continuing to threaten a number of communities. Photo: AAP


The premier has confirmed that 26 homes had been destroyed or badly damaged - the number is expected to rise - as had 41 outbuildings such as farm sheds.

Twenty-nine people, mostly firefighters, have been injured or hospitalised.

Police on Monday said the cause of the bushfire was still unclear but that an incinerator near Sampson Flat was one line of inquiry that was being investigated.


Sisters Mary and Di lost the home they grew up in near Humbug Scrub. The fire has already destroyed 12 homes with another 20 feared lost. Photo: AAP


The current priorities of fire crews are to contain the fire within its massive perimeter, clear roads to help restore services and to protect the more than 1000 homes in the fire zone.

Mr Weatherill said conditions are hindering the damage assessment teams, but authorities were determined to allow residents access to their properties as soon as practical.

The Country Fire Service says the four-day old fire has not expanded significantly on Monday, but conditions are predicted to worsen.

Mr Weatherill praised the work of fire fighters and was relieved he's not having to talk about deaths.

"But we've got a bit of a way to go before we can relax," he said.



Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton said more firefighters from NSW and Victoria would arrive on Monday and Tuesday as part of efforts to prepare for potentially more volatile conditions on Wednesday.

Temperatures are forecast to sore to 38C on Tuesday, and again on Wednesday when a late weather change should move through the fire zone, bringing with it shifting winds and the possibility of thunderstorms.

"The day of the change is always the day of highest potential," Mr Nettleton said.

"It's always on the day of the change that it's one of those watch-out days for us."

However, Mr Nettleton said he was not anticipating conditions to be as bad as they were on Friday or Saturday.

"If I compare where I was at on Saturday afternoon to where we're at now, I'm much, much more comfortable," he said.


Authorities are preparing for potentially catastrophic weather conditions that could fan a blaze that has already ripped through 13,000 hectares and destroyed or badly damaged 26 homes in the Adelaide Hills. Photo: ABC


Authorities on Monday allowed residents back into some fire-affected areas but about 20 checkpoints remain in place, with falling trees and powerlines a major safety concern.

About 1000 homes were still without power on Monday afternoon.


Owners of the Tea Tree Gully Boarding Kennel say they are devastated having lost their kennel and animals to bushfires. Photo: ABC


Some residents returned to their burnt out homes on Monday, while others were more fortunate to find their properties intact.

Authorities were hoping to open up access for more residents in the coming days, but Mr Weatherill warned there would be "a lot of pain and grief" as people learn what they've lost.

At the Golden Grove relief centre on Monday, that sense of loss was palpable.

Many still have no idea when they will be able to return to their homes, and some don't know if their homes are still there.


The fire has already destroyed 12 homes with another 20 feared lost. Photo: ABC


Michael and Jodie Koczwara's Inglewood home was gutted in the blaze, just hours after they decided it was no longer safe to stay and defend the property.

"You start contemplating everything," Michael says.

"If we have a house at the end of the day but I don't have a wife or I don't have a dad, what's the point?"

The couple were initially confident their well-maintained property would escape damage but hours later, their home was in ruins, a shed had exploded and their paddocks were burnt black.

"Seeing what happened to the house, we know now that we would never have been able to take any cover anywhere," Jodie told AAP.

There were fewer people at the centre on Monday afternoon than previous days but the amount of food, water and bedding donated by well-wishers seemed to have doubled overnight.


One Tree Hill resident Alex Demchenko lost his house in the fire. Here, he feeds melons to his blackened sheep. Photo: ABC


Mr Weatherill said the response was now focused on three key areas: containing the fire; clearing roads to help restore services; and protecting the more than 1000 homes in the fire zone which are "surrounded by fuel that could ignite".

"We know that we're in a dangerous phase where people are becoming fatigued, where they might feel that there is a false sense of security because what appears to be the worst is over and then they make a bad decision like going into an area that is not safe," Mr Weatherill said.

"We also know the fire isn't out yet and we've got some dangerous weather approaching."