Southwest Sydney bush fire still uncontained as windy conditions fuel flames

Published: 15 April 2018 Image credit: NSW RFS

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The threat of an out of control bushfire tearing through Sydney’s southwest has been re-elevated from a “watch an act” alert, as windy conditions exacerbate the fire which is now travelling towards Alfords Point, Menai and Bardon Ridge.

More than 500 firefighters spent the night battling the fire which has burnt through more than 1,000 hectares of bushland around Holsworthy and Menai after starting on Saturday afternoon at Moorebank, burning in a south-easterly direction.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes on Saturday evening as flames threatened houses at Holsworthy and Wattle Grove, while authorities told people in the suburbs of Alfords Point and Sandy Point that it was “too late to leave” after a change in wind direction early Sunday morning.

The NSW Rural Fire Service downgraded the bushfire to a “watch and act” alert on Sunday morning, however warned homeowners to remain vigilant.

“We’ve still got more than 500 firefighters working on this fire,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters. “It is not contained; the risk is still very real.”

The Commissioner warned that despite the downgraded alert level, due to the weather conditions and amount of fire still burning, there is “every likelihood” that the alert level could again be elevated this afternoon.

“We've got a lot of work ahead of us and some strong winds dominating the system today which are going to prove very problematic for the firefighters and all those people in and around this fire ground area.” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

An emergency warning was issued just after 12pm for residents in Alfords Point, Pleasure Point, Sandy Point, Menai and Bardon Ridge after the fire crossed Heathcote Road.

Heathcote Road remains closed between Macarther Drive and New Illawarra Road, while the RFS said the easing conditions had allowed firefighters to begin back burning efforts along Heathcote Drive at 7am Sunday morning.

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Image: NSW RFS 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was “absolutely a miracle” that no serious injuries or loss of property were reported overnight.

“It’s not every day that in April you hear that a fire that has started in Casula is threatening homes in such close proximity to our suburbs,” She said.

“This is not something that happens every day, very unusual circumstances.”

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Image: NSW RFS

The Department of Defence confirmed no buildings had been damaged at the Holsworthy army facility from which all non-essential personnel were evacuated.

The cause of the fire is yet to be determined and NSW Police have launched an investigation after speculation it may have been deliberately lit. 

“We are so concerned with reports this could have been deliberately lit.” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The community would deem it absolutely unforgiveable if this fire was deliberately lit.”

Police from Liverpool Police Area Command are appealing for witnesses in relation to the grass fire that started in the vicinity of Leacocks Reserve in Casula.

Almost 900 firefighters battled 48 bush and grass fires across NSW yesterday.