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Police investigate blaze near Queanbeyan as fire crews battle on

Fire at Carwoola, southeast of Canberra on Friday 17 February 2017. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Smouldering remains of a property after a fire at Carwoola, southeast of Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Birds taking flight during a fire at Carwoola. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Kevin Lindley inspects his property after a fast moving bush fire at Widgiewa Road, near Queanbeyan destroyed his home. Photo: Jay Cronan

Eleven homes have been lost and 12 more damaged in a fire which ripped through 3500 hectares of land at Carwoola.

Of those 11, one belonged to a senior firefighter who was out defending the homes of others. A further 45 outbuildings were destroyed and 40 were damaged. There was “quite a number” of stock lost, with a figure yet to be determined. At least 56 homes were saved by firefighting efforts, many came within inches of the fire.

The fire began on Friday, a day of total fire ban in the region. It reached emergency status and remained that way until late evening. The fire was contained on Saturday afternoon. Crews would remain on the scene to patrol the area in the coming days, as hot spots continued to smoulder.

An unexpected weather change about midday on Saturday brought welcome relief for firefighters and residents. About five millimetres of rain fell on the charred earth, which had been well alight the day prior.

But firefighters were warning residents to remain vigilant as storms sweeping across the state saw lightning strikes spark more than 100 fires.

Having worked throughout the night to protect properties from the fire burning at Captains Flat Road between Carwoola and Hoskinstown, firefighters said they were monitoring lightning strikes closely.

NSW RFS confirmed two firefighters had also been injured while fighting the blaze and were taken to the Canberra Hospital.

A spokeswoman for ACT Health said one of the firefighters was released from hospital, while the other remained in a stable condition on Saturday.

About 200 firefighters, 50 fire trucks and at least 10 aircraft worked to establish containment lines on Friday, but the blaze had burnt 2700 hectares by 7pm.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency provided an initial boost of firefighting resources, on request from NSW, sending in 120 firefighters and support personnel, plus both of the capital’s water bombing helicopters. On Saturday, a further six ACT RFS units were deployed to help with the control and mopping up efforts.

NSW RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers praised the actions of volunteers crews on the ground, saying the situation could have been much worse.

“The fire moved frighteningly quickly and the remarkable thing is how quickly that fire developed,” he said.

“Anybody that looks at that landscape can see how quickly that fire moved through that area and how very lucky we are that there wasn’t loss of life or more property.”

He said the RFS was “very concerned” about the potential of the fire.

“We threw everything we had at it,” he said.

“It’s as good an outcome as we could have got, but our sympathy goes out to those who have lost their homes.” Firefighters getting some much needed relief and refreshments at the Stoney Creek brigade. @canberratimespic.twitter成都夜总会招聘/mspEVGa8Vx— Kimberley Le Lievre (@kimlelievre) February 18, 2017

NSW Deputy Premier and Monaro MP John Barilaro also praised local RFS crews, including those from the ACT and Victoria who helped with firefighting efforts.

On Saturday morning, the ACT Emergency Service sent a further three taskforces to the fire front, including both the territory’s bushfire helicopters.

“This has been a very tough time,” Mr Barilaro said. “They were focused on protecting life and the community.”

He said the state government would be “standing firm” with the community in the days to come.

Police said in a statement on Saturday they were working with NSW RFS to establish the cause of the fire. A brief would be prepared for the Coroner.

Over the past 24 hours, it’s estimated lightning strikes had caused more than 100 fires to spark across NSW.

People in the area of Hoskinstown, Rossi and Forbes Creek were advised to continue monitoring the fire situation closely and to prepare a bushfire survival plan.

On Saturday morning, the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council launched an appeal to help those affected by the grass fire.

It was set to kick off later in the day at the NRL trial between the Raiders and the Knights at Seiffert Oval in Queanbeyan, with volunteers roaming the crowd to collect donations.

Council administrator Tim Overall was touring the fire grounds on Saturday morning with Rural Fire Service representatives.

“This is heartbreaking for our community and, while we will never be able to replace what has been taken from these families, the establishment of the Carwoola Bushfire Appeal fund will allow the community to come together and support those who have been affected,” Mr Overall said. Yesterday the fire tore through and burnt this home. Today, there are puddles of rain. @canberratimespic.twitter成都夜总会招聘/hnfsjUZWW0— Kimberley Le Lievre (@kimlelievre) February 18, 2017

Donations could be deposited into the Carwoola Bushfire Appeal account – BSB 032724, account number 362257 or made in person at Westpac branches.

There were a number of roads closed on Saturday due to safety reasons and a total fire ban remained in place across the ACT.

A 24-hour evacuation centre had been established at The ‘Q’ – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 253 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan.

Horse owners requiring assistance were advised to take their horses to Exhibition Park’s Equestrian Centre, located at 10 Flemington Road Mitchell ACT.

For more information contact the EPIC 24-hour duty phone on 0466 419 099.Weatherzone: Canberra radar     Fire crews are out mopping up spot fires along Captains Flat Rd. Crews on throughout tonight. #[email protected]成都夜总会招聘/Sd0WCgyiCZ— Tom Lowrey (@tomlowrey) February 17, 2017On the left behind the water tank is a cubby house. The Lindley’s asked why it survived when their home didn’t. @canberratimespic.twitter成都夜总会招聘/gKCBszkWO3— Kimberley Le Lievre (@kimlelievre) February 18, 2017The #Carwoola fire viewed from Lake Burley Griffin this afternoon. It’s just behind the Carillon. pic.twitter成都夜总会招聘/kmJoFjX4vd— Kate B (@erstkate) February 17, 2017At 7am there are 88 bush and grass fires. 39 uncontained. Aircraft flying this morning looking for others after yesterday’s storms. #NSWRFS— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) February 17, 2017

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