Emergency warnings have been issued for fires near two townships on Kangaroo Island, after the Australian Defence Force (ADF) earlier helped with evacuations.
- Parndana and Vivonne Bay have been the focus of evacuation efforts on the island
- The Defence Force has boosted its presence with the arrival of troop carriers
- The weather bureau is forecasting a cooler change, but not until later this evening
The Country Fire Service (CFS) said Vivonne Bay on the south coast as well as the Cygnet River catchment area near the town of Parndana were now under direct threat.
“This fire may pose a threat to lives directly in its path,” the CFS has told residents in both fire zones.
“Act now. Leave, if the path is clear to a safer place, as it will soon be too dangerous to drive.
“If you cannot leave, identify where you will seek shelter from the bushfire. Heat from the fire will kill you. Do not enter this area as conditions are dangerous.”
The CFS yesterday took the unprecedented step of evacuating the town of Vivonne Bay, but some residents chose to remain.
The Ravine fire broke out more than a week ago and has claimed two lives and destroyed more than 50 homes.
Emergency text alerts were earlier issued to residents at Parndana, where the main road has been closed and ADF personnel have helped people to leave.
“[The] CFS advises that the predicted weather for Kangaroo Island today is highly likely to cause breakouts at multiple points along the fire perimeter,” the CFS said in an earlier message.
“Overnight and into this morning, crews have been actively fighting outbreaks at Deep Creek Gully, Bark Hut and Yarda. These outbreaks remain uncontrolled.
“The wind direction has already changed today and further changes are expected.”
Troops and Army personnel carriers have begun arriving on the island to aid with recovery, boosting the Defence Force’s presence after reservists were deployed earlier this week.
“I would say it’s unprecedented,” local MP Leon Bignell said.
“This is the first time they’ve deployed on a task like this … when the regular Army turns up, you kind of know that everyone’s doing as much as they possibly can.”
Roads that are currently open could become unsafe to travel as the situation changes, the CFS said.
NASA has released satellite images of Kangaroo Island, revealing the transformation from wilderness to scorched earth at the western end of the island.
NASA satellite images show Kangaroo Island fire impact
‘Beast of a thing’ blazing in hot conditions
Temperatures have reached the mid-40s in parts of the state and fire weather warnings for severe fire danger are current for six districts including Kangaroo Island.
“We’ve got a weak south-westerly coming in during the afternoon but we won’t see temperatures drop until the cooler south-westerly change late this evening,” Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Hannah Marsh said.
“We’ve got a front coming through which will really increase the south-westerly winds.”
Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly told ABC Radio Adelaide everyone on the island was “very nervous” ahead of today’s conditions.
“It’s so frustrating not knowing what this fire’s going to do next. It’s just a beast of a thing,” he said.
Before today, Kangaroo Island’s fires had burnt over 170,000 hectares — more than a third of the island’s terrain — and destroyed more than 50 homes.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with fire-affected locals yesterday, and also announced a funding package for the island to aid with recovery.
“You can rest assured I’m in no doubt of the devastation on the island,” he said.
Earlier a fire close to South Para Reservoir broke out between Kersbrook and Williamstown in the Adelaide Hills, but has since been contained.
Police are treating that fire as suspicious and have requested anyone who may have dashcam footage from the area between 5:30am and 6:40am to contact them.
The CFS earlier defended a decision not to immediately scramble water bombers to the Kersbrook fire.
“Aircraft aren’t the magic bullet, they’re not the panacea for firefighting. They’re there to help the firefighters on the ground,” CFS assistant chief officer Rob Sandford said.
Estimates of 25,000 koala deaths on Kangaroo Island
The Kangaroo Island fires have had a devastating impact on livestock and wildlife.
Birds, reptiles and spiders have today been removed from Raptor Domain, a sanctuary for birds of prey near Seal Bay.
ADF personnel and vets have also helped to treat koalas with severe burns.
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park co-owner Sam Mitchell described being “overwhelmed” by the number of injured wildlife being brought in.
Stacey Lee sanctuary tweet: At least 45 birds, lots of reptile and plenty of spiders evacuated from Raptor Domain at #SealBay on #KangarooIsland. Staff doing their best to stay calm in order to keep the birds calm too. It’s the second time they’ve had to leave this week. @abcadelaide
Mr Mitchell has estimated about half of the 50,000 koalas on the island had been killed in the fire.
“We’re saying 50 per cent has been wiped out, it could be more … a lot of the area was just too hot and none of them stood a chance,” he said.
The park had 15 koalas before the island’s bushfire crisis, but has since been inundated.
“We’ve been rescuing koalas for the seven years that we’ve been here and we see anywhere from 10 to 20 a year, and now we’re seeing 10 to 20 per vehicle that’s showing up. No-one was prepared for this,” Mr Mitchell said.
A fundraising effort set up to help wildlife had raised more than $800,000 — well above its initial target of $15,000.
Adelaide Koala Rescue is seeking a new home after operating in recent weeks from a primary school in the city’s north-east.
About 150 volunteers from the charity are providing 24-hour care at the temporary facility for more than 100 burnt or injured koalas affected by the Cudlee Creek fire in the Adelaide Hills.