AT LEAST three homes have been destroyed and more remain under threat as a large bushfire continues to rage out of control at Carabost, north east of Holbrook.
The fire, burning in dense pine plantations in and around the Murraguldrie State Forest, had burnt more than 8000 hectares last night and remained at a “watch and act” alert level.
Flames in the pine plantations crowned at more than 2½ times the size of trees, reaching at least 100 metres in height as they tore through the bushland.
Thriving pine plantations have been reduced to barren and lifeless moonscapes by the fire, which is believed to have been started by a lightning strike on Saturday afternoon.
Variable winds in the area have been causing difficulty for firefighters trying to establish containment lines ahead of an anticipated wind change last night.
Firefighters were working to establish a major break to the southern and western sides of the fire before a wind change from the north-east, forecast to arrive about midnight, swung the fire around once again.
Riverina Rural Fire Service community safety officer James Smith said firefighters were “as confident as we can be” containment lines would hold.
“The lines at this stage are as strong as we can make them,” he said. “When the conditions are right we work to make those lines even deeper.”
More than 200 firefighters have been tackling the blaze, aided by two Skycrane helicopters and other aircraft.
Thick smoke from the fire blanketed much of the region with ash falling across large sections of the fireground.
Emergency warnings were twice issued for the blaze, one about 1am yesterday and another at 3pm as it blazed through pine forests on Tumbarumba and Carabost roads.
The second emergency warning was triggered after a strong south-westerly change swept through the fireground, whipping a fire into a frenzy.
Residents of properties in the Carabost area were ordered to evacuate and were being told to stay away last night by the RFS, with the fire continuing to threaten homes.
The flare-up threatened to cross Carabost Road to the east, where it would have ignited a pine plantation and potentially placed Humula under threat, but quick work by firefighters ensured the inferno was held at bay.
Initially fanned by gusty south-westerly winds, it rampaged north-east through the Murraguldrie State Forest before a wind change turned the danger away from the town and towards properties in the vicinity of Carabost.
But despite the danger appearing to have passed yesterday, the town remained eerily silent as the inferno continued to menace to the south.