The Fires of the Lower Manning Valley

I have been contacted by fellow iNaturalists regarding the ongoing fire threat here in the Lower Manning Valley, N.S.W. And I thank you very much for your concern.

I thought perhaps it best to post this thereby allowing me to reference the one post rather than repeating more emails. And, oddly enough, there was something calming about putting this timeline together as if partitioning out the events helped make a bit more sense of it. Though as I type this, the deafening roar of a chopper hovering over the river gathering up water nonetheless has become more disconcerting than I would have credited my normally disciplined mind should register.

so here is what I have come to comprehend.

The Hillville fire began just 6k down the next road over from Bull Hill. We saw the smoke rising an hour before any alert went out. In the absence of info and observing what seemed a huge fire obscuring fully half a third of sky, I estimated where it may have originated and decide to triangulate it and perhaps calculate its progress. I guessed the next road west of us, Hillville Rd., would be best for viewing. In fact, I drove right into it. I was on scene and filmed the moment when it shot across the road into the state forest about 3 minutes before the fire service arrived. By then, although reported online as just a hay bale fire of 1 ha size, in fact it was 150 ha at that point. If the Forster fire had not exploded at the same time, resources may have been available to stop it ...

7 NOV Day 1 winds were westerly the first 24 hrs so the fire only crept north 1 km towards us but reached 1019 ha in just 4 hrs ending with 6150 ha. Fire crests Breakneck Lookout (and Fire Tower), the high point in the State Forest, and begins its run toward the coast.

8 Nov Day 2 saw FIERCE ungodly SW winds would double the fire size in just 12 hrs. The fire races down to the Pacific Coast Hwy, jumps the highway and rapidly engulfs Rainbow Flat. The Rural Fire Service HQ there burns to the ground. Faster than television reporting can keep up, the fire reaches the outskirts of Old Bar. I ring mum who is staying with cousin Jenni. She has just been witnessing tall flames a few streets over after knocks on the door from individuals rousing everyone to evacuate. Nonetheless, they opt to remain overnight as the beach is a short distance away. Morning brings more knocks and the sight of flames at the end of the street. They evacuate to the Surf Club. Along with 400 others, they snack on sandwiches in the car park ... the beach is right there as back up ... literally as the way forward toward the road out to the highway is closed. Meanwhile on the western front, a sickly coffee-brown smoke dominates the lower half of the sky. In stark contrast, volcano shaped pyro cumulus clouds, billowing high above, shimmer silver as they catch light off the setting sun. It is now 6pm and a brilliant red bullet emerges to fly directly overhead. Shortly after, the chase plane for the massive tanker passes so low one has an urge to wave at the pilot. They circle the fire a half dozen times. We never saw a drop ... we now know they were lining up runs over Old Bar. By 7pm, an unfavourable windshift forces our hand and we evacuate my reluctant aunt to Cundletown on the northern bank of the river. We have family here. My cousin Julian holds on another hour to secure the property until blinding choking smoke is too much to take. On leaving, he snaps a pic of the flames cresting the ridge 3 km to the south. Shortly after mobile phone service becomes wholly unreliable. Local council Mayor pronounces the situation dire ... he is not wrong.

9 Nov Day 3 winds become southerly bringing the 18km fire front north to the banks of the Manning and within 2.5 km of Bull Hill and 3 km of Tinonee. Bucket's Way, the road to hwy is now closed leaving just escape routes east to Gloucester and north to Wingham. It is a surreal landscape as if the entire valley was under a golden dome ... every surface, even the interior of one's home appears amber as if you had on tinted glasses. Choking smoke and fly ash came and went. Spot fires cropped up anywhere and everywhere. A fist size flaming ember landed on the lawn of a home in Upper Landsdowne 5 km from the fire front - that of the Dingo Tops Fire (18,000 ha) ... one of three "out-of-control" fires on the day surrounding Taree. The Hillville fire now just shy of 17,000 ha. To the NE, the Harrington/Crowdy Bay fire (officially Bill's Crossing) is now impacting John's River and Dunbogan ... it reaches 12,000 ha in size.

10 Nov Day 4. woke to a cool mtn breeze at sunrise. A light westerly permitted me to go back out to property and check on the horse and retrieve some documents I left behind. A walk up the hill on our neighbors property reveals new smoke well west of anything the fresh maps indicated ... it was obviously out of control and moving quickly supported by a freshening se. wind. I later learn this branch of the fire took off toward Burrell Creek (due west of Bull Hill) forcing a closure of Bucket's Way in that direction by evening. Only the north to Wingham now remains open. I checked in at Tinonee on my way back. The shop was open so I stopped to get a call out (phone service had been down for 48 hrs). While talking to my mother, I see smoke rising 200 meters away on the other side of the oval/tennis courts. A spot fire that takes the rest of the day to control ... gets to within 50 meters of the Tinonee fire station. This another and another spot fire to the south of Bull Hill close the gap to either Tinonee property (Mum's and my aunt Bevs) ... now 850 meters.

The se. wind shift permits Old Bar to breathe easier. The road closure there is lifted for necessary travel around 8pm. However, the Harrington fire, now north to John's River (site of one local fatality) rages with renewed vigour forcing the closure of the coastal hwy to the north. Police checkpoints go up in Cundletown and elsewhere ... only necessary travel permitted.

Now we wait for TUE - DAY 6 ... 37 deg and high winds may have us reliving this. A "Catastrophic Fire Alert" has been issued for the day. And now the forecast for rainfall places us in the swath along the east coast which will see little or no rain in the month of November. ... teeing up a summer like no other.



Publicado el noviembre 10, 2019 08:01 MAÑANA por vicfazio3 vicfazio3


Fotos / Sonidos




Noviembre 8, 2019 a las 06:14 MAÑANA AEDT


It's quite surreal I agree. Fortunately we are not too close to any of these fires, being near Coffs, but the landscape is eerie, Mars-like in the last few hours of the day with red and orange light. Have not sen the sky for about 4 days.

I work at a school in Nambucca Heads and many workmates have been impacted by the Bowraville fire. We will probably be at 1/2 capacity in terms of staff tomorrow.

Glad to hear you made it out with your moth lights! Let's hope some moths make it out too...

All the best and thanks for the update.


Publicado por nicklambert hace más de 4 años

10 Nov 9pm update: road to Old Bar re-opens.

Publicado por vicfazio3 hace más de 4 años

Thanks for the updates.

Publicado por jcefus hace más de 4 años

Whew. Thanks for the incredible reports. Praying for some unexpected heavy rains.

Publicado por kent_miller hace más de 4 años

Good luck with it all! While ours was not the size of yours, we went through it all in March and had 5 days away from home. Thankfully we were allowed to pop back in briefly but that amber glow you mentioned still haunts me, it's something I will never forget. I hope luck is on your side.

Publicado por mattcampbellaus hace más de 4 años

I too appreciate the updates on this. Hoping that everyone can stay safe...

Publicado por sambiology hace más de 4 años

My Facebook update from 23 hrs ago ... the link, if it works, will provide the maps I reference.

I hope discuss the ecological aspect in a weekend post.

================================ 14 Nov 2019=============================

Fire Update: First, I would like to thank very much all those expressing heartfelt concern for all involved here in the Lower Manning. All my family have remained safe throughout. Three of the main road closures limited travel have been lifted allowing my mother to stay with a sister in Cundletown the past 2 days. In a an hour, I will be taking her to the regional airport at Port Macquarie (an hour north along the coastal hwy) for her return to Cleveland, Ohio.

As to the fires themselves, the situation remains fluid. On Day 6, the now well publicized Catastrophic Danger" we had out 5th fire outbreak in the Lower Manning. Beginning well west in the mtns, the blaze shot eastward at a rate of 1000 ha an hour for 18 hrs. There remains 3 other active fire regions (each in turn with 2-15 hotspots). With every windshift, one or more hotspots flares up. Only yesterday, the Hillsville Fire in the vicinity of the original spark flared bringing the fire up to "Emergency" status once again. However, each night the winds die, and the humidity rises just a little, slowing the fires. It is the dry afternoon winds that bring uncertainty as lit embers have been falling 15 km out front the fire front placing some right in town ... one at the local primary school a few streets away.

Some have asked after the animals. The local Taree showgrounds (equivalent to fairgrounds in the US) was open to animal evacuees. About 300 horses and other other farm animals have been in residence there this week.

Map 1 It was always my intention to give an honest assessment of the situation with an appropriate level of concern in the face of media hype. Here is an annotation of the northern front of the Hillville fire (now 24,000 ha/59,000 acres). This is from 24 hrs ago at the height of the threat to residents along the Manning. The green check mark is where I and aunt Bev evacuated to on the second day. The purple star at Tinonee is her property where I am in residence until Mum's home (black star) is completed. Some have asked about Charlie's well being. Our immediate neighbor is a volunteer for the fire service service and has been looking out for him while one or more family member has been seeing to water and feed.He has a fairly large paddock within which to move about. The Hillsville fire has been downgraded to "watch and act". And so my aunt has returned to the property. But we remain vigilant.

Map 2. The regional map as of a few hours ago. This represents the current extent of the 91,5000 ha/226,000 acres scorched recently (about 90% in the last 7 days). This is the concern... winds from the WNW, NW, N, ESE, SE, S, SSW, SW, and WSW all spell trouble for someone in the area.

Legend: Blue diamonds were flare-ups on Tue. White diamonds remaining hotspots. The red X marks the remaining closure of the coastal hwy.

Forecast, tomorrow (Fri) and next Tue are favourable for flare-ups, while the higher humidity and possible overcast Sat-Sun should be favourable for fire-fighters (including back-burns).

Publicado por vicfazio3 hace más de 4 años

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