Week of wild weather

LOCAL emergency services staff have had a hectic week in Queanbeyan and the surrounding region as hot, windy conditions had the town on high fire alert.

The first sparks flew on Tuesday morning when power lines atop a paddock opposite Oaks Estate clashed in the high winds, igniting the dry grass below.Neighbours reported the blaze and fire crews from the ACT and Lake George Rural Fire Services were on the scene within five minutes, with the fire extinguished within 30 minutes. 

Some two hectares of grassland were burnt out.High winds continued to cause havoc on Tuesday afternoon, and Queanbeyan SES were called to eight wind-related jobs to remove downed trees and other debris.

Queanbeyan City Fire Brigade staff assisted at the GP super clinic building off Crawford Street around 4.30pm as loose sheets of roofing left behind by a contractor threatened to blow off the roof.

Around the same time the first reports were coming in to local RFS staff of what would become a major bushfire at Sand Hills, 13 kilometres east of Bungendore.

RFS Superintendent for Lake George Tim Carroll and staff at the multi-agency Emergency Operations Centre in Queanbeyan coordinated 120 volunteer firefighters at the peak of the fire as they battled to save homes and stock in winds of over 80kph.

Wednesday saw a cool change come through and winds abate.Police were able to reopen the Kings Highway between Braidwood and Bungendore at approximately 9.20am on Thursday, while RFS staff strengthened containment lines surrounding the fire in case conditions deteriorate again at the weekend. 

The fire had destroyed some 1400 hectares of bushland at time of print.

Queanbeyan Police and SES staff also played and integral part in a coordinated approach to support firefighters as they battled the blaze.

Inspector Chris Varley told the Queanbeyan Age on Thursday that the fire at Sand Hills was under control.

"The fire threat in the Lake George district [Queanbeyan and Palerang] has now well and truly abated," Inspector Varley said.

"We were fortunate in that there was no loss of human life [at Sand Hills] and we managed to save all the major infrastructure and buildings in the affected area. Some more minor infrastructure like fences and sheds were lost, but our losses compared to those down south at Cooma are really quite minimal.

"Stock losses as far as we know at this stage included 16 sheep, a couple of pigs and an alpaca, and given the size of the fire and potential it had we were very fortunate really," he said.

Queanbeyan residents are advised to keep informed of fire threats over the weekend via local media and the RFS website, www.rfs.nsw.gov.au.

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