NSW Rural Fire Service crews rush to Long Gully Road to assist with the fire fighting efforts.
NSW Rural Fire Service crews rush to Long Gully Road to assist with the fire fighting efforts. Marc Stapelberg

HIGHWAY CLOSED: Conditions worsen as fire approaches Drake

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • LATEST INFORMATION: Stay tuned to our rolling coverage HERE
  • DRAKE: The bushfire is expected to reach Drake and the Bruxner Highway, residents should enact their bushfire survival plans
  • YAMBA AREA: The Shark Creek fire is impacting the villages of Angourie and Wooloweyah. A southerly change could push the fire into Yamba

 

UPDATE, 5.40pm: THE Bruxner Highway has been closed between Tabulam and Tenterfield as a bushfire approaches Drake.

Residents should keep an eye on Live Traffic NSW and Fires Near Me for the latest information on the situation as it unfolds.

 

UPDATE, 4.30pm: THE Drake fire is burning in bushland south of the Bruxner Highway and south of Drake and Tabulam, to the west of the Clarence River, in the Girard State Forest.

It is burning in a north easterly direction along Long Gully Road and Plains Station Road, towards the Bruxner Highway and the villages of Drake and Tabulam.

It is expected to reach the area of Drake and the Bruxner Highway.

Pierre Markuse posted this satellite image of the Drake fire on Twitter:
Pierre Markuse posted this satellite image of the Drake fire on Twitter: "A NIS/SWIR/VIS view of the #Bushfire in the north of #NewSouthWales".

Firefighters are working with property owners along both these roads to protect properties as the fire front approaches.

Strong winds are expected to continue today. Fallen trees and fire may impact local roads.

If you are in the area of Drake, Ewingar, Tilbaroo and areas on the western side of the Clarence River, put your bush fire survival plan into action now.

Well prepared and actively defended properties can offer protection.

Areas on the eastern side of the Clarence River should monitor conditions closely. Ensure you know what you will do if the fire impacts on your property.

The Bruxner Highway may be closed at short notice. Check Live Traffic for updates.

If you live in the area but are away from your home, it may not be safe to return to your property.

The streets of Drake are quiet, with just emergency service crews patrolling.
The streets of Drake are quiet, with just emergency service crews patrolling. Marc Stapelberg

Stay informed

  • An Evacuation Centre at Tenterfield Showgrounds, 62 Miles St, Tenterfield is open today from 07:00hrs to 23:00hrs.
  • Members of the public can register their details prior to attending the Evacuation Centre. Visit the Register Find Reunite site at https://register.redcross.org.au and register for the 'Bushfire in Tenterfield'.
  • If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
  • Continue to stay up to date with the bush fire situation by checking http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au, listening to your local radio station or by calling the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.
  • For information on road closures, check http://livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au. Roads may be closed without warning.

The next update on this fire will be issued by 6.30pm or if the situation changes.

 

UPDATE, 3.15pm: WATER-BOMBING aircraft have been grounded, with strong winds making it unsafe for them to support ground crews battling the Drake bushfire.

According to Rural Fire Services Northern Tablelands Superintendent, Tim Carroll, this has put ground crews under a huge amount of stress at the uncontrolled Long Gully Road Fire, which is burning steadily towards Drake.

Mr Carroll said it was too late to leave the village.

"We have experienced very strong winds across all fires in the region today and that's grounded our firebombing aircraft," he said.

"This has put our firefighters under an enormous amount of stress."

He confirmed earlier news that residents in Drake must stay put and enact their fire plan.

"The advice we are giving people in Drake it is too late to leave," he said.

"You need to prepare for the fire, take shelter in your home."

Once the fire has passed over a property, Mr Carroll residents then face a second, gruelling challenge.

"Residents who have had the fire-front come through can then expect ember attack for many hours after the main front," he said.

"They will have to be vigilant to ensure the embers don't spark a fire on the property."

Mr Carroll said the gusty winds which are fanning this fire are expected to present firefighters with challenging conditions until Wednesday.

 

UPDATE, 2.30pm: WITH dozens of fires burning across the region, the Northern Rivers has been blanketed with smoke, prompting the North Coast Public Health Unit to issue a warning.

Air quality is poor in the region as a result of the bushfires, and a unit spokesman said people with respiratory and cardiac issues are being urged to stay indoors.

North Coast Public Health Unit assistant director Greg Bell said fires scattered across the region are affecting air quality.

Depending on prevailing winds, smoke from Southern Queensland is also affecting air quality in the region.

Fine smoke particles can affect the human heart and respiratory system and can aggravate existing chronic health conditions by penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the blood system.

Mr Bell said these fine particles can cause various health problems such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.

Drake residents prepare as a bushfire approaches.
Drake residents prepare as a bushfire approaches. Marc Stapelberg

 

"We urge people with chronic respiratory or cardiac conditions to be aware of the health effects of being exposed to bushfire smoke and to take steps to protect their health," Mr Bell said.

"Not everyone who is exposed to bushfire smoke will have health problems and most healthy adults will find symptoms clear without any long-term consequences.

"However, smoke exposure can lead people with lung diseases like asthma or chronic bronchitis may develop shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, possibly even days after smoke is inhaled.

"We recommend these people closely monitor their symptoms and follow their asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) action plan."

He said people sensitive to smoke should avoid strenuous outdoor activity while it is visibly smoky and can reduce their exposure by staying indoors with the doors and windows shut.

"Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with chronic respiratory conditions need to be vigilant with their own medication or treatment programs," Mr Bell said.

"If symptoms do not settle, contact your doctor."

In the event of an emergency, always remember to dial Triple Zero (000) and always follow directions and advice provided by emergency services.

 

UPDATE, 1pm: DRAKE is a village almost deserted as the bushfires move relentlessly closer.

RFS Far North Coast District Officer Aaron Howard addressed a meeting at the Drake Community Centre at noon.

Mr Howard said people should be aware they may not be able to leave if they stay.

"The Bruxner Hwy is still open but it could close at any moment," he said.

"Residents need to be aware of this if they choose to travel."

Mr Howard told the audience of around 25 residents that conditions around the Long Gully Road Fire were likely to get worse.

He confirmed roadblocks were in place around some roads due to smoke or fire activity, He said the time to prepare a property to stay and defend was over.

"It's now to late to clean out your gutters," he said.

Mr Howard advised people to monitor conditions and to enact their bushfire survival plan.

The normally bustling village was quiet, with only a few residents cars outside the post office and the Lunatic Hotel.

The text of the traffic consisted of emergency vehicles including fire trucks, police cars and RFS 4WD.

An ambulance crew from Grafton said they been liaising with local firefighters on the Long Gully Road Fire.

 

UPDATE, 12.30pm: AROUND 25 residents attended a town hall meeting at Drake at noon today which was organised by the RFS.

Residents were told while the Bruxner Hwy was still open, it "could close anytime soon".

Driving east towards Tabulam, conditions are very gusty as smoke is blown across the tinder-dry landscape.

 

UPDATE, 12pm: DRAKE residents are being warned to be careful if they're planning on leaving, as roads might be impacted by smoke.

An update posted on the RFS website after 11.30am today explains that more than 32,200 hectares of land has been burnt and the fire is still out of control.

"Ensure you know what you will do if the fire impacts on your property," the RFS says.

"The Bruxner Highway may be closed at short notice. Check Live Traffic for updates.

"If you live in the area but are away from your home, it may not be safe to return to your property."

Live Traffic is reporting the Bruxner Hwy is still open however road but traffic is affected in both directions and users should remain cautious of smoke limiting their visibility.

"There are bushfires burning in the area and smoke may affect visibility," the Live Traffic website stated.

"Motorists should drive to the conditions."

More to come.

 

UPDATE, 11.30am: RESIDENTS are evacuating as the firefront approaches Drake.

Ebony Inchley, who is 30 weeks pregnant, said she understood the fire was about 4km from her property.

"It's pretty close, and as you can see, it's pretty windy," she said.

"We're a little bit worried… back in February it wasn't this close at all.

"We watched the fire burn along the mountain last night.

"We're going to pack and get ready to go."

The RFS says a community meeting will be held at noon at the Drake Community Hall, Tabulam St in Drake.

It will provide informaiton about the current status of the fire and local fire managers will be available to answer questions.

Ebony Inchley packs up and prepares to leave Drake aa the fire approaches.
Ebony Inchley packs up and prepares to leave Drake aa the fire approaches. Marc Stapelberg

 

Original story: STRENGTHENING winds have firefighters on high alert at bushfires at Drake and Shark Creek.

It is understood a number of buildings, likely outbuildings, have been destroyed in the Long Gully Rd fire at Drake overnight.

The Drake fire is still at a "Watch and Act" advice level and fire crews have been talking to residents in the Drake township overnight, urging them to enact their bushfire survival plans.

An update posted on the RFS website this morning explains that more than 22,200 hectares of land has been burnt and the fire is still out of control.

"The fire is burning in a north easterly direction along Long Gully Road and Plains Station Road, towards the Bruxner Highway and the villages of Drake and Tabulum," the RFS says.

"It (was) expected to reach the area of Drake overnight.

"Firefighters are working with property owners along both these roads to protect properties.

"Strong winds are expected to continue over the coming days. Fallen trees and fire may impact local roads.

"If you are in the area of Drake, Ewingar, Tilbaroo and areas on the western side of the Clarence River, put your bush fire survival plan into action now.

"Well prepared and actively defended properties can offer protection.

"Areas on the eastern side of the Clarence River should monitor conditions closely. Ensure you know what you will do if the fire impacts on your property."

A community meeting is scheduled to be held at the Drake Community Hall in Tabulam St, Drake, at noon today.

Anthony Bradstreet from the RFS told ABC North Coast this morning that crews had been working hard to defend properties overnight.

"There have been some reports of property damage... initial reports were outbuildings," he said.

"We have strengthening southwest winds today. Long Gully Rd fire will continue moving up towards Drake.

"We have had crews talking to residents... the firefront has been forecast to get towards the township."

Tenterfield fire

The Tenterfield blaze, now at Advice level, has burnt more than 3500 hectares and still being controlled.

The fire has moved to the north east towards Billirimba Road and the Bruxner Highway. Crews remain on scene to bring the fire under control.

The Bruxner Highway is currently open but may be affected by smoke.

Shark Creek

This fire is currently 3600 hectares in size and is out of control.

It is burning in a north easterly direction towards Brooms Head Road in Taloubmi.

Firefighters will continue working overnight to slow the spread of the fire and establish containment lines.

Brooms Head Road is remains closed. Stay up to date with Live Traffic.

People in areas of Wooloweyah and Angourie, and even towards Yamba, should monitor conditions for smoke and embers. 

  • If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
  • Continue to stay up to date with the bush fire situation by checking http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au or by calling the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.
  • For information on road closures, check http://livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au. Roads may be closed without warning.

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