SMOKE rises above Lennox Head as firefighters battle to put backburns in place.
SMOKE rises above Lennox Head as firefighters battle to put backburns in place. Patrick Gorbunovs

Firefighters regain control of Lennox Head blaze

UPDATE 5:15pm: THE COAST Road has reopened this afternoon as RFS crews brought containment lines at the Lennox Head fire under control again.

Throughout the day crews have monitored a flare up which occurred in the southwestern corner of the fire zone last night and jumped the original containment line near Tobin Close on the western side of The Coast Road.

Two crews will continue overnight and tomorrow to extinguish any further hot spots.

RFS Inspector Matt Inwood said the combustible nature of the heath country near the southwestern perimeter was compounding the challenge for firefighters.

"Heath country burns underground and will burn for any number of days, weeks, months, years underground, and every now and again it will hit a soft patch of heath where it can make its way to the surface with oxygen," Inspector Inwood said.

 

UPDATE, 5.45am: THE Lennox Head fire is back under control, the Rural Fire Service website reports.

The fire, which yesterday afternoon jumped containment lines and crossed the Coast Road, now covers 738 hectares - or more than seven square kilometres.

The Rural Fire Service has listed the fire danger for the Northern Rivers today as "high" and firefighters battling the Lennox blaze can expect to face temperatures reaching into the low 30s and north to north-westerly winds ranging between 15km/h and 20km/h.

Conditions are expected to get hotter over the next couple of days, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting temperatures on the Northern Rivers to reach 40 degrees Celsius on Friday and Saturday before falling back to a maximum of 30 on Sunday.

The hotter temperatures were expected to be countered somewhat by an increased likelihood of rain. No rain is forecast for today, but the Bureau says we may get showers and thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon and showers on Saturday afternoon.

In the meantime, a new fire has broken out in the Nightcap National Park at Kunghur and was last night burning out of control.

The Rural Fire Service's most recent report on the Nightcap fire was listed at 6pm last night and says the fire covered one hectare. The service has the fire listed at the "advice" level only, suggesting it poses no threat to properties.

Claims inadequate bushfire mitigation led to this week's fire have been denied by the RFS and National Parks and Wildlife Service.

On Monday The Northern Star quoted a Broken Head landowner who said "this fire could have been prevented, if National Parks had allowed us to continue to maintain the trails and back-burn. We were locked out over 15 years ago."

But National Parks Northern Rivers manager Mark Johnston pointed out the fire neither started on, nor burnt, any land managed by NPWS.

"This started on private property which the NPWS has no authority over," Mr Johnston said, adding under the Rural Fires Act landholders had a responsibility to prevent the spread of fire.

RFS Far North Coast operational services co-ordinator Inspector Matt Inwood said hazard reduction measures had been undertaken in the fire area prior to the blaze.

BIRD’S EYE: The view from Pat Morton lookout.
BIRD’S EYE: The view from Pat Morton lookout. Gary Patterson

BREAKING, 3.30pm: THE FIRE between Lennox Head and Broken Head has reportedly jumped containment lines and The Coast Road has again been closed.

The Rural Fire Service says the fire is burning on both sides of The Coast Road and there is new fire burning behind Bundaleer Lodge and behind homes on Byron Bay Road at Lennox Head.

It appears there is no direct threat to properties at this stage.

RFS crews have been boosted and a helicopter is on its way to restart water bombing operations.

UPDATE 9:15am: THE Coast Road between Lennox Head and Broken Head reopened yesterday around 7pm after the majority of mop up operations of the blaze were completed by Rural Fire Services personnel.

A single crew remains patrolling the fire perimeter today between Campe Drewe and Lennox Head and Bundaleer Rd.

RFS operational services coordinator Matt Inwood said crews would continue to patrol the site over the coming days as hot weather once again descends on the region.

Northerly winds will return today and strengthen until Saturday, with a high of 35 degrees along the coast until a cool change Saturday afternoon.

FROM THE AIR: The view from the T&G; helicopter involved in water bombing Lennox Head.
FROM THE AIR: The view from the T&G; helicopter involved in water bombing Lennox Head. Wayne Mcintosh

ORIGINAL REPORT: INTENSIVE backburning around the bushfire along The Coast Road between Lennox Head and Broken Head saw the Rural Fire Service finally establish a fire perimeter just before midnight on Monday.

One major backburn took place along a north-south line from Camp Drewe at Lennox Head, southwards parallel to Lake Ainsworth and behind residential blocks on Barrett Dr.

By early yesterday morning, crews had moved in to mop up operations, patrolling and dousing hot spots along the fire perimeter.

RFS Far North Coast operational services co-ordinator Inspector Matt Inwood said the clean-up operation would continue until at least tomorrow night.

"There is still some internal fire and residents will still see smoke in the area but we have a perimeter around the fire," Inspector Inwood said.

"The mop-up and patrol operation is making sure everything is out along the edge, at least 30m deep in.

"It's a hard slog but it's the most critical part of the job."

About 50 firefighters remain on the ground in the clean-up, drawn from the wider region, plus aerial waterbombing from helicopters.

With hot weather returning to the region today, firefighters have ensured the majority of the mopping up is complete by this morning.

"We've got warmer conditions due with winds turning back to a northerly influence and warmer conditions staying for the rest of the week," Inspector Inwood said.

The freak fire, which was sparked by a solitary lightning strike during Sunday afternoon's post-heatwave storm, ended up burning close to 600ha of bushland along a 6km north-south corridor.

At its peak up to 80 firefighters battled up to 20m-high walls of flame from the backyards of residents' homes along Bundaleer Rd, while southerly winds of 70-90kmh fanned the blaze.

Ross Lane remained closed for most of yesterday.

RESIDENTS of Figtree Hill keep an eye on the fire – taken by local woman Sue on Monday night.
RESIDENTS of Figtree Hill keep an eye on the fire – taken by local woman Sue on Monday night. Contributed

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