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Green Wattle Creek fire upgraded to emergency warning level

Firefighters have been diverted to Wingecarribee Council's Resource Recovery Centre in Moss Vale, after a fire broke out around 1pm. Picture: Adam McLean
Firefighters have been diverted to Wingecarribee Council's Resource Recovery Centre in Moss Vale, after a fire broke out around 1pm. Picture: Adam McLean

Update, 8pm:

Authorities have announced they don't expect the Currowan fire to spread to lower Southern Highlands townships this evening, despite a strong southerly change moving through the region.

Residents of Wingello, Penrose, Bundanoon, Exeter, Manchester Square, Avoca and Fitzroy Falls have been on alert since the fire jumped the Shoalhaven River near the Tallowa Dam on Saturday afternoon.

However, Southern Highlands RFS said it was "unlikely" the fire, which has current active edges south of Bundanoon and south east of Penrose, would reach residential areas overnight.

"Predictions on fire spread after the southerly change this evening indicate that the fire is unlikely to impact on any of the residential areas," the Highlands team said in a Facebook message posted at 8pm on Saturday.

"A full assessment will be carried out on Sunday morning to determine the extent of the fire since crossing and this will form the basis of the strategies required to control the fire over the next couple of days."

However, residents are still advised to monitor the fire through the Fires Near Me app.

Moss Vale Services Club will remain open through the night for residents who want to leave their homes. Small animals are welcome.

2pm:

As fire conditions worsened on Saturday, residents of large towns in the Southern Highlands were being advised to assess their need to stay in the area.

The Green Wattle Creek fire has burnt around 270,000 hectares since November 26 and is burning in four local government areas - Wollondilly, Wingecarribee, Upper Lachlan and Oberon.

The fire was upgraded to 'Emergency level' around 1.30pm on Saturday.

Those at Wombeyan Caves, Bullio and surrounding areas have been told it's too late to leave with fire activity increasing in the area. They've been advised to seek shelter in a solid structure to protect themselves from the heat of the fire as it approaches.

Fire activity is also increasing in areas to the north and west of Mittagong including Rock Lilly and Barralier. A special team of Fire and Rescue NSW crews from Queensland have been sent in to assist in this area.

Firefighters have also had to rush to Wingecarribee Council's Resource Recovery Centre on Berrima Road in Moss Vale, after a mulch fire broke out around 1pm. The facility has been closed until further notice and residents are advised to avoid the area.

Firefighters work to put out the mulch fire at Moss Vale tip. Picture: Adam McLean

Firefighters work to put out the mulch fire at Moss Vale tip. Picture: Adam McLean

The Rural Fire Service Emergency Control Centre said one of the main evacuation centres in the area is the Moss Vale Services Club. It was going to be the Mittagong RSL - however due to the fire threat, that was changed this morning.

Residents of Aylmerton, Braemar, Balaclava, Willow Vale, Mittagong, Welby along Wombeyan Caves Road and Joadja Road have been advised to relocate.

Fire activity is expected to increase with the forecast, and these towns have been predicted to be affected by ember attack. Just before 11am, the Moss Vale weather station recorded a high of 37 degrees.

The view south from the Illawarra Highway between Robertson and Moss Vale, where a large cloud of smoke is visible. Picture: Adam McLean

The view south from the Illawarra Highway between Robertson and Moss Vale, where a large cloud of smoke is visible. Picture: Adam McLean

Illawarra Mercury reporter, Josh Bartlett, who lives near Bowral said his family and other residents were facing a nervous wait as the day heats up.

"The north and southern village residents will have a very nervous day, especially hearing that the Mittagong evacuation centre is being moved due to the potential impact of fire," he said.

"They haven't evacuated anyone but have advised people to get out of Mittagong and high range.

"We have prepared our property as much as possible this week. We have sprinkler systems on the roof, have raked up leaves and sticks around the house. And we moved our horses on New Year's Day to a safer location.

"There's a lot of anxiety in the air.

"Most people feel on edge, scared up here because of the uncertainty of both the Green Wattle Creek and Currowan bushfires. They are both moving towards the Southern Highlands."

Meantime Canyonleigh residents Kari Sanders and Rohan Peace are among the scores of people who've set up tents at Moss Vale Showground - many with their animals.

"My husband and I made the decision to leave on Thursday, and on Friday we came to the showground with our daughter Lily as well as four horses, a pig, two ducks, guinea pigs, mice, cats and a dog," Ms Sanders said.

"It's a logistical nightmare to transport all the animals which is why we made the decision early to leave, rather than stay and defend the property.

Seventeen-year-old Lily Sanders at Moss Vale Showground with her pet mouse Tiggy. She's evacuated with her parents and their many animals including horses, a pig, cats and birds. Picture: Adam McLean

Seventeen-year-old Lily Sanders at Moss Vale Showground with her pet mouse Tiggy. She's evacuated with her parents and their many animals including horses, a pig, cats and birds. Picture: Adam McLean

"We're renting a 100 acre property and less than five acres is cleared - the rest is bush. I don't feel mentally capable of staying and trying to defend the property."

Ms Sanders said the animals were secured in an old goat pen at the showground, and were under cover and doing well. She said SES Wingecarribee crews were looking after those gathered at the showground.

"We love our animals," she said. "We feel much calmer now we're here. If we have to move from here, I don't know where we'll go."

Libby and Silas Sonter, from Exeter, have also brought their children - Brayden, 8 and Isabella, 12 - and several animals to the showground.

"We've got five horses here although there's 11 horses at home and my husband is going back and forth," Mrs Sonter said.

"We're on 100 acres and we're a bit sandwiched between the fire coming up from the Shoalhaven and the Green Wattle fire coming down.

Isabella Sonter takes care of one of her family's horses, which have been relocated from their Exeter property to the Moss Vale Showground. Picture: Adam McLean

Isabella Sonter takes care of one of her family's horses, which have been relocated from their Exeter property to the Moss Vale Showground. Picture: Adam McLean

"The property is equipped with tankers and a pump to put out spot fires at home.

"It's just awful, it's a waiting game. Even if the fire doesn't reach us today, it's not going to be put out until there's substantial rain."

Residents can also go to the Moss Vale Services Club for the day where tea and coffee etc will be made available.

Bowral Uniting Church will also open their doors on January 4 between 9am - 12pm and 2pm - 5pm for anyone who has relocated and would like to escape the heat. There will cold drinks, tea and coffee available.

The RFS Southern Highlands team issued a community newsletter on Saturday, updating those in the region on the current situation.

"Overnight fire conditions has increased some fire behaviour," the team stated. "Today firefighters will focus on property protection, limiting the speed of fire and securing containment lines."

The RFS Southern Highlands team said with the extreme fire danger predicted, residents should review their bushfire survival plan and be prepared for unpredictable fire behaviour.

"You may be notified about official warnings," the advice stated. "However you need to decide when you will leave. Leaving early is the safest option."

Current Situation

  • Dangerous fire conditions are expected today. These fires pose a serious threat to life. Do not be in the path of these fires. View the fire spread prediction map here.
  • Fire activity is increasing on some parts of the fireground.
  • Strong north westerly winds will impact the fire today. A gusty southerly change is due to affect this fire later this evening. This will push the fire in a northerly direction.

Advice as at 5pm Saturday

Wombeyan Caves, Bullio and surrounding areas

  • Fire activity is increasing in the area.
  • It is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches.
  • Seek shelter in a solid structure to protect yourself from the heat for the fire.

Areas to the north and west of Mittagong, including Rock Lilly, Barralier

  • Fire activity is increasing in the area.
  • Monitor the conditions and know what you will do if the fire threatens.

Burnt Flat, Paling Flat, Long Flat, Colong Stock Route, Bindook Highlands, Wanganderry, High Range

  • Monitor the changing conditions. Know what you will do if the fire threatens.

Alpine, Aylmerton, Willow Vale, Braemar, Balaclava, Mittagong, Bowral, Berrima, Woodlands and Mt Gibraltar areas

  • Monitor the changing conditions. Know what you will do if the fire threatens.
  • Stay alert for embers and spot fires.

Yanderra, Hill Top, Buxton, Yerrinbool and Colo Vale

  • Monitor the changing conditions. Know what you will do if the fire threatens.
  • Stay alert for embers and spot fires.
  • Follow the advice from firefighters in the area.

Balmoral Village, Nattai, Pheasants Nest, Couridjah, Thirlmere, Tahmoor, Bargo, Oakdale, Lakesland, Silverdale, Warragamba, The Oaks, Belimbla Park, Werombi, Orangeville, Theresa Park and Brownlow Hill

  • The fire has passed through the area. There may still be unburnt areas and active fire.
  • Monitor the changing conditions. Know what you will do if the fire threatens.
  • Stay alert for embers and spot fires.
  • Follow the advice from firefighters in the area.

Jenolan, Jaunter Road, Tuglow and Kanangra areas

  • Fire is burning within containment lines.
  • Monitor the changing conditions.

Canyonleigh

  • Monitor the conditions.
  • Know what you will do if the fire threatens.

If you are threatened by fire

  • Do not be in the path of the fire.
  • Protect yourself from the heat of the fire. Wear protective clothing and footwear. Cover all exposed skin.
  • If the fire impacts, seek shelter in a solid structure to protect yourself from the heat of the fire.
  • If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero (000).
  • If you are in an area that has already been affected by fire, there may be small areas of active fire burning for some time. Be aware of the dangers of trees and branches falling.

Evacuation Centre

Other Information

  • Stay up to date on bush fires in your area by checking the NSW RFS website, listening to your local radio station, or by calling the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.
  • People with respiratory conditions who are affected by bush fire smoke should activate their health management plan and seek medical advice if necessary. Take precautions, such as staying indoors and closing windows.
  • For information on road closures, check Live Traffic NSW. Roads may be closed without warning.
  • Monitor weather conditions and weather warnings at Bureau of Meteorology.
This story Currowan fire 'unlikely' to hit Southern Highlands towns tonight; Green Wattle remains at emergency level first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.