Traffic chaos as bushfires close highways
THE Myall Creek bushfire emergency has forced drivers to take massive detours with the closure of two major highways.
As the Myall Creek fire bore down on Bungawalbin and Tullymorgan yesterday, motorists looking to travel between Sydney and Brisbane were left with no option but to take a huge detour via the Gwydir and New England highways adding up to three hours to the trip as the Pacific Highway and Summerland Way were closed in both directions.
The Pacific Highway highway was closed just before noon and with the additional closures of the Summerland Way and Bungawalbin-Whiporie Rd, drivers had to take the Gwydir Highway via Glen Innes.
Despite clear public warnings from the Rural Fire Service and Roads and Maritime Services, there were reports of some drivers attempting to take shortcuts through active fire grounds.
"We are hearing reports people are using their GPS to get up Pringles Way - it is an area of active operation and not a place people should be going," NSW RFS Northern Rivers public liaison officer Paul Fowler said.
"Trust us, we are looking closer than anybody else, there is no way through.
"There are no back roads or trails and people driving into these areas are putting themselves at risk."
As the alert was raised to emergency level in the afternoon, firefighters battled the huge blaze on multiple fronts and Mr Fowler said with "variable winds" conditions were becoming increasingly difficult.
He said the RFS was in "active property protection" in the areas of Bungawalbin and Tullymorgan but the fire had slowed on its path towards Mororo.
"There is a lot of fire in the landscape," he said.
"The spread has been slightly slower (to Mororo) and on the western side around Whiporie continues to be problem."
As Mr Fowler warned of yet another weekend of hot and dry conditions, there looked to be no rest for the hundreds of volunteers working on the front lines.
"With the way the fire is currently behaving, we are going to reassess them later in the day once we see where the fire progresses to," he said.
As several fires continue to burn in the LGA, so far there have been at least 100 houses destroyed.
With 63 per cent of the Clarence Valley assessed, there were also 181 outbuildings destroyed and two facilities. A further 33 homes and 97 outbuildings have been assessed as damaged.