17 Jan 2013

Gillard visits scene of NSW bushfire

3:41 pm on 17 January 2013

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is touring the scene of the Coonabarabran bushfire in northwest New South Wales.

She arrived in Coonabarabran on Thursday morning where fire has destroyed 49 houses, more than 110 sheds, machinery, fencing and untold livestock.

Ms Gillard went first to the Rural Fire Service (RFS) headquarters for a briefing from Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

AAP reports Ms Gillard will visit RFS volunteers and meet Bob Fenwick and his family.

Mr Fenwick lost his home next to the Warrumbungle National Park while out fighting another fire in the region. He has fought up to 40 fires in his time as a volunteer and RFS captain.

The Prime Minister will also visit the Siding Springs Observatory near Coonabarabran which was damaged on Sunday.

AAP reports 84 bush and grassfires were still burning across the state, 14 uncontained, on Thursday morning. More than 530 firefighters in 145 trucks supported by 80 aircraft were battling the blazes.

Meanwhile, firefighters across the state are braced for a return of hot and windy weather.

"It's looking like a severe fire danger day on Friday all the way from Sydney right down the eastern side of the ranges and then along the Victorian border past Wagga to the Riverina area," RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said on Thursday.

South Australia

South Australia is bracing for a day of high bushfire danger on Thursday, with temperatures in the 40s and strong winds forecast in most regions.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Adelaide would have a top of 42C with northeasterly winds to 35km/h ahead of a cooler change set sweep across the city later in the day.

In the Riverland the temperature was expected to reach 44C at Renmark while Ceduna, on the west coast, was forecast to have 45C along with Wudinna, on Eyre Peninsula.

The Country Fire Service listed the bushfire risk as extreme in six districts and severe in the remaining seven.

8000 Victoria firefighters on standby

About 8000 firefighters are on standby across Victoria where temperatures are forecast to reach into the 40s.

AAP reports here is a severe fire danger rating and total fire bans for the Wimmera, central, north central and southwest districts on Thursday.

The CFA warns there is a very high danger level for the remainder of the state.

Three messages advising residents to monitor conditions were current for Victoria as of 9.30am local time on Thursday, including for towns surrounding the Kentbruck fire in the southwest of the state.

That blaze is about 11,964 hectares in size, but has been under control for some days.

The other messages relate to an underground peat fire at Cabbage Creek near Cann River in the east, and Cressy west of Geelong.