AT 10am fire chief George Alexander urged his emergency services colleagues to brace for a day of extreme fire conditions where any fire sparked was likely to be dangerous.
It was the first briefing of the day at the Albury Rural Fire Service headquarters, now transformed into an emergency operations centre.
Liaison officers from councils, health and agricultural departments, the VRA, Fire and Rescue NSW, paramedics and police listened intently as the wind howled outside.
They would be the people to make things happen: the deployment of more fire crews, bulldozers and water tankers, evacuations of hospitals and aged-care homes.
All hoped the preparations would be for nothing.
“We’ll see what happens,” Supt Alexander told them.
Eight tankers had already been sent to a bizarre, but not unheard of, fire on Jingellic Road at Holbrook.
An eagle had hit a powerline, dropped to the ground and sparked a small grass fire.
But today was the day no risks would be taken and the response was swift.
Then an emergency call came out of Conargo, about 50 kilometres north-east of Jerilderie.
A lightning strike from the night before had developed into a 1000-hectare blaze and embers had jumped containment lines.
Strike teams were sent from Albury.
In a room at the headquarters, six officers took calls from the public about smoke sightings and tracked the movement and operations of each brigade.
There were reports that smoke was seen from the Conargo fire up to 60 kilometres away.
It was quiet by their standards and the officers talked and joked among themselves between calls.
“It’s a lot noisier now than what it would be if an operation was happening,” RFS officer John McGrath said.
At noon, information came in from Conargo.
Two properties were under threat but were protected and Jerilderie was going to be OK.
The lull of the morning suddenly took a tense turn when just after 1pm, Supt Alexander told the team that an 80-hectare fire threatened Henty.
Phone calls were hurried as the Henty hospital and aged-care homes were contacted and councils organised bulldozers and water tankers.
It was too late for evacuations but buses were organised to be on stand-by for the vulnerable.
For about an hour, the centre had sprung to life before a briefing at 2.15pm.
Supt Alexander said the fire had been contained and Henty was safe for now.
“We’re sitting comfortably,” he said.
The lull came again and Albury police Inspector Tony Moodie said Henty showed the importance of having an emergency operations centre where organisations could be accessed immediately.
“It showed how the EOC does operate as a co-ordinated team,” he said.
“It was a good test of our skill and response.”
The final briefing of the day came at 4pm.
Jerilderie was not under control but there was no threat to the town.
The emergency operations centre would stay open until 9pm and re-open this morning.
“It doesn’t mean to say it’s all over,” Supt Alexander warned.
“We’ll just wait and see.”