Status downgraded but danger still exists


Live weather radar


7.15pm: Road closures currently due to fires in Indigo Valley. 

5.35pm: Sirens are reported to have gone off in Yackandandah, according to The Border Mail’s Annie Brown. She’s en-route to Myrtleford with her family and reports there’s “a long line of cars”.

5.31pm: CFA district 24 operations manager Paul King has revealed the difficulties facing firies.

Water-carrying aircraft tackle the fire in the Indigo Valley. Picture: MARK JESSER

Water-carrying aircraft tackle the fire in the Indigo Valley. Picture: MARK JESSER

“Firefighters are often struggling to stand up in the wind. That’s the sort of conditions that we’re facing," he said.

“The fire is just burning so quick that simply to be able to keep up with the progress of it and then secure the back end of it is pretty hard going.”

The fire started about 1pm. It had burnt 7000 hectares by 5pm, up from 4000 hectares after the first two hours.

5.28pm: Beechworth Road is still a major focus for firies.

5.21pm: Four helicopters are fighting the fire on the eastern side of the Beechworth-Wodonga Rd.

5.19pm: The Khancoban to Dead Horse Gap – Alpine Rd has been closed due to a bushfire at Geehi.

Clive Hayward shared these images of smoke from his West Wodonga backyard.

Clive Hayward shared these images of smoke from his West Wodonga backyard.

5.16pm: Lightning strikes are starting to occur around the Wodonga area. 

5.14pm: Sandwiches and coffees are being handed out at The Cube. Doggie treats have also been handed out to hungry pooches. The Border Mail understands Wodonga Racecourse will be used as a sanctuary for other wildlife.

5.10pm: To reiterate, an emergency warning has been issued for Yackandandah and Wooragee. 

5.05pm: The fire is now moving back towards Leneva. More reports the fire has engulfed the Indigo Creek Road.

5pm: However, an emergency warning has now just been issued for Wooragee and Yackandandah. Leaving is now the safest option for residents.

A residents looks on in dismay at the fires. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

A residents looks on in dismay at the fires. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

4.57pm: There are a number of spot fires around the Beechworth-Wodonga Rd.

4.55pm: To recap, the Barnawartha bushfire has been downgraded to a watch and act.

4.53pm: Unconfirmed reports a house is on fire along Hewitt Road. 

4.51pm: The Albury SES unit reports aircraft are at Albury Airport are busily moving through for fuel, retardant and water.

4.49pm: Firies have deemed it SAFE to evacuate residents along the Beechworth-Wodonga Rd.

4.48pm: A resident is reported to be fighting the spot fire with a tanker.

4.47pm: Reports of spotting to the west of the Beechworth-Wodonga Road. Firies discuss door-knocking. An evacuation plan is in place for residents.

4.42pm: A b-double truck has broken down in Rutherglen blocking the traffic.

4.40pm: Murray Valley Hwy is now flowing well until Rutherglen, where it’s bottlenecked.

4.39pm: Advice for Barnawartha, Indigo Valley and Indigo Upper has been downgraded to a watch and act.

However the fire is not yet under control

4.38pm: Beechworth Bakery has announced it will be closed tomorrow due to fires in the town’s vicinity.

4.35pm: There are high winds, rain and dust storm around Lockhart. Care is urged on the roads for fallen trees/branches and low visibility due to rain and dust.

4.30pm: Fire is still in the vicinity of the Indigo Valley Primary School but it has not reached it yet but firies are prepared pending any possible wind change says The Border Mail’s Mark Jesser.

4.25pm: The section of Barnawartha, north of the Hume Fwy, has not been affected by fire.

4.18pm: The fire is now up to 5400 hectares, up from about 4600 hectares. 

4.11pm:  Still about 30 people at the Wodonga relief centre. People are still still waiting to see how the situation develops.

4.08pm:  This is an emergency warning issued by Country Fire Authority for Leneva, Leneva West.

There is a fast moving, out of control bushfire travelling in a easterly direction from Indigo Valley towards the Beechworth Wodonga Road.

Spotfires and Ember Attacks are starting up to 2 km ahead of the main.

Extreme fire weather means that the forward spread of the fire cannot not be controlled. A wind change is also forecast that may see the fire spread in a Northeasterly direction. If your plan is to leave your property now is the time to do it.

Leaving now is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous.  Emergency Services may not be able to help if you decide to stay.

Travel to:

- There is a Community Fire Refuge at  The Cube Wodonga, Hovell St (and/or) your closest Neighbourhood Safer Place is at (location details-road/town) 

- The Relief Centre at Beechworth Memorial Hall.

- The home of family or friends that is away from the warning area.

- Wodonga or Albury.

4pm: The Beechworth-Chiltern Road is now due to be blocked at Chiltern.

3.57pm: A number of Yackandandah residents have already left their homes, whereas others are staying to protect their homes if necessary says The Border Mail’s Annie Brown. Rain stopped after a few minutes about 3pm but wind is still swirling. 

3.56pm: UPDATE – Carols by candlelight has now been CANCELLED by the CIty of Wodonga due to “due to the extreme weather conditions and fires in the wider region”.

3.51pm: Police and City of Wodonga staff have headed up the emergency registration process at The Cube which become a major evacuation centre for the fires as of 2.30pm.

Wodonga Police Sergeant Mick Savage said police had gone address to address in the Indigo Valley to inform them to come to The Cube if they didn't have anywhere else to go.

"People have come in to be registered, and we will try to find accommodation for them and their loved ones and whether we need kennels for the dogs," he said.

Nine dogs have come into the centre so far along with more than 30 people.

Sergeant Savage said the centre situation would be dependent on the fire, which might blow out and might not, but at the moment they were preparing for what could be a long night.

"We have a place for people to sit and to sleep," he said.

3.49pm: The Border Mail photographer Mark Jesser says Cheesley Gate Road, at Indigo Valley, is about to experience more danger.

3.38pm: A single CFA crew is now gearing up to defend the Indigo Valley School after a sudden wind-change. A water bombing craft is also in the air.

3.32pm: A fire has been extinguished in the Myrtleford area after a tree hit a power line.

3.27pm: The wind has picked up NOW and is starting to blow a gale. 

3.25pm: At least one firefighter needs to be treated for smoke inhalation.

3.22pm: A cool change is imminent for Wooragee area, wind still very strong. No flames or property damage in the area.

3.20pm: VicRoads have confirmed both lanes of the Hume Fwy are still CLOSED. 

3.18pm: The bushfire has now burned more than 4600 hectares and it has been confirmed structures have been lost.

3.16pm: CFA firefighters are bracing for the wind to change in about 15 minutes bringing 100km/h winds.

3.15pm: Thirteen people so far have arrived at the Wodonga Sports and Leisure Centre which was initially nominated as the evacuation centre.

Yackandandah resident Mathilde Partha only learned about what to do in a bushfire this morning from CFA volunteers at the Yackandandah markets.

Ms Partha started to monitor watch and act alerts on her phone this morning and started to get worried as the town's distance from the fire got smaller.

She said a handful of residents gathered at the Yackandandah Citizen's Club before 2pm where CFA volunteers told them if they were to leave for Wodonga they had to leave right there and then.

"There was lots of smoke, and lots of twigs on the road," Ms Partha said.

Ms Partha said the fire was upgraded as she got into Wodonga.

Libby M'Crystal lives near Yackandandah on a rural block but was in Wodonga with her husband and four children when a neighbour rang about the fires.

She said her husband dropped them off and drove out to secure their house in Yackandandah.

Evacuees have been told they can remain at the sports centre but the Cube is now the preferred evacuation centre since the former is located on the outer boundaries of Wodonga and is a bigger risk.

3.10pm: An advice warning has now been issued for West Wodonga and Leneva.

3.02pm: It’s starting raining in Yackandandah but the wind is still swirling around. A large number of people have left the town.

The fire rages at Indigo Valley. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

The fire rages at Indigo Valley. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

3pm: A hurried operation is under way to save animals at the Yackandandah wildlife sanctuary Kangaloola.

The operators of the centre were desperately running around just after 2.30pm to bring in animals from enclosures.

2.56pm: It’s starting to rain lightly in Wooragee from a westerly direction. It’s quite calm among residents, who’re keeping an eye on the situation. The fire is about 10 to 15km from the township.

2.50pm: Wind blowing from the north-west is still “incredibly strong” in the Indigo Valley area.

2.47pm: A westerly wind change expected for 5pm could come in the next 30 mins.

2.40pm: Traffic is being diverted off the Hume Freeway along the B400 / Murray Valley Highway and Chiltern-Howlong Road. The detours are causing delays of about 30-40 minutes.

2.35pm: The V/Line service bound for Melbourne has been returned to Wodonga. Passengers are waiting to be serviced by coaches.

2.34pm: CONFIRMED – the Wodonga relief centre was changed back to The Cube 15 minutes ago. 

2.33pm: A multi-vehicle crash has occurred on the Hume Fwy with a 21-year-old believed to have received minor injuries.

2.30pm: It appears the the relief centre location has now been changed back to The Cube, to be confirmed.

2.28pm: Between Finley and Benalla there are heavy clusters of rain and likely stormy weather, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. 

2.26pm: Incredibly – Wodonga’s carols service will still go ahead.

2.24pm: Milawa Christmas Carols have been cancelled due to the bushfires.

2.19pm: CFA incident controller Graham Healy says the the fire is 2500 hectares in size and "spreading quite rapidly". A wind change is expected in the area at 5pm. 

"We are not winning at the moment. As a consequence of that we are about to extend our emergency warning by telephone alert right down to Beechworth-Wondonga Road,” he said.

"Our biggest concern is we are due for a strong and gusty wind change that will take the eastern side of the fire into the eastern side of Wodonga.

"It's on rising ground, which is not helping. It's not very pretty. We have the large air tankers, and unfortunately they can't do what we wanted them to do. We're very vulnerable on the eastern side, but the weather is too dirty for us to do what we want them to do."

A picture of the blaze from the Chiltern rest stop about 12.45pm. Picture: AJIAH HARRIS

A picture of the blaze from the Chiltern rest stop about 12.45pm. Picture: AJIAH HARRIS

2.17pm: EX-INDIGO mayor Bernard Gaffney is getting set to hose down the roof of his home as he watches smoke billowing from behind Mount Pilot.

2.12pm: The wind is set to take a westerly change at Indigo Valley which would send it northwards. 

2.10pm: A V/Line train bound for Melbourne has been stopped on the tracks due to its proximity to the fire. 

2.08pm: A number of people are leaving Yackandandah bound for Wodonga via Wodonga Road. Residents have been urged to drive safely.

2pm: Indigo Creek Road is also been door-knocked by firies.

1.58pm: Spot fires are flaring up on Masons Gap Road at Indigo Valley indicating the fire front is closing. CFA units are in the area and attempting to door-knock residents in danger.

1.53pm: As of now, only one resident has visited, and subsequently left, the refuge station at Wodonga Sports and Leisure Centre.

1.52pm: Yackandah residents are watching and waiting to see what happens, lots of shops in the town have closed. Residents should use the Wodonga Road to travel to either Wodonga or Myrtleford as it’s unsafe to use any other routes.

1.45pm: A small bushfire in Everton, just outside the watch and act area, was declared safe about 1pm.

1.43pm: VicRoads have reported the Hume Fwy has now been reopened at Chiltern.

1.40pm: CFA have door-knocked residents in several areas in and around the Barnawartha area. 

1.37pm: Firies report the wind has picked up slightly and crews are being urged to be careful of any falling branches and leaves.

1.30pm: The traffic on the Hume Freeway at the Murray Valley exit is backed up for several kilometres. 

1.25pm: Firies report the blaze is burning on the Chiltern to Yackandandah Road, approaching Chiltern National Park.

1.22pm: As of now, Wodonga’s Candles by Carolight event is still ON – pending further advice from the SES. A change in wind direction is expected about 5pm.

1.20pm: All traffic has been diverted off the Hume Freeway. Roads in around the Indigo Valley area have been blocked.

1.15pm: A watch and act message has been issued by Country Fire Authority for Barnawartha, Barnawartha North, Indigo Valley, West Wodonga, Huon Creek, Castle Creek, Indigo Upper, Wodonga, Leneva West, Wooragee, Leneva, Yackandandah, Beechworth due to a fast-moving bushfire travelling in a south easterly direction from Barnawartha towards Yackandandah through the Indigo Valley.

Stay Informed via

There is a community fire refuge at Wodonga Sports and Leisure Centre or your closest Neighbourhood Safer Place

1.12pm: The CFA has now widened the potential spotfire zone from the Barnawartha blaze to include areas at Beechworth, Yackandandah and near Wodonga.

An emergency warning has been issued by the Country Fire Authority for a fast-moving, out-of-control grass fire heading south-Barnawartha.

The warning was put out by the CFA just after noon for the fire, which it said was heading towards the Indigo Valley.

Up to 28 CFA units have been involved in tackling the blaze.

Indigo Valley Road has been closed as a result of the fire, which could be producing spot fires and ember attacks up to 4.3 kilometres ahead of the main fire.

The CFA has warned that it is now too late for people to leave their properties.

“The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately,” it said.

A further update is expected by 2.30pm, “or as the situation changes”.

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