The town of Kingscote on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island has been cut off as the Country Fire Service (CFS) continues to battle a number of out-of-control blazes.
- Two emergency warnings on Kangaroo Island have been downgraded to watch and act
- All roads out of Kingscote have been closed off leaving residents stranded in the town
- A number of other towns on the island were evacuated on Wednesday and Thursday
Roads out of Kingscote, on the island’s north-east, are closed due to a watch and act warning and some people have spent the night sleeping at the water’s edge and on the town’s oval.
The town’s airport has also been evacuated and closed and the emergency staging centre has been moved closer to Kingscote.
About 1,800 people live in Kingscote.
Two emergency warnings for the centre of the island that included Parndana, Vivonne Bay and Seal Bay have now been downgraded to watch and act messages.
The area was evacuated on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of deteriorating conditions.
A second watch and act alert, which was extended overnight, includes Emu Bay, Nepean Bay, American River and the outskirts of Kingscote.
Authorities said Kingscote and Penneshaw remained safer places and urged people to stay there.
An advice message remains in place for the western third of the island.
About 9:30am CST, the CFS said rain had begun to fall on the island, temperatures had dropped to about 15 degrees Celsius and humidity was increasing.
ABC reporter Casey Briggs, who is on Kangaroo Island, said it had been a, “long sleepless night for many”.
“After the emergency warning was extended to just west of Kingscote, the island’s biggest town, residents started moving in to safer ground — many going to the relief centre at the oval, others to the Kingscote jetty wanting to stay near the water,” Briggs said.
“People have been arriving through the night. It’s smoky, there’s ash in the air and it’s also been lightly raining this morning and conditions remain erratic.”
Properties damaged, but many saved
CFS incident controller Ian Tanner said property had been impacted, but the full extent of damage would not be known until the assessment team is on the ground later today.
“I know yesterday they’ve had some really good saves,” he said.
“Those stories will come in today, I haven’t had a chance to hear all of those.
“I’ve heard a few about some of the assets down at Vivonne Bay and further along on the South Coast Road that they’ve managed to save.”
He said there were a lot of areas within the fireground spared by the fires.
“This fire wasn’t nearly as intense and as continuous as the fire last Friday so we expect to find a lot of unburnt pockets,” he said.
“Parndana for example is sitting in an unburnt pocket an there’ll be a number of other assets, structures pastures and things that are just unburnt.”
He said there had been quite a few minor injuries to firefighters and “trauma” but he was not aware of anyone being unaccounted for.
Mawson MP Leon Bignell spent the night at Kingscote and said the town’s population swelled overnight as evacuees arrived.
He also evacuated to the Kingscote Oval in the middle of night.
Earlier in the evening, he had helped the owner of the Ozone Hotel put up cots in its dining room — which had hours previously hosted a wedding dinner — for the Salvation Army, who had been evacuated from the emergency staging area at the airport.
“There were people there [at the oval] with horses, with dogs, with kids, there were overseas tourists there and then I got a message from Mary-Lou Corcoran who runs the Ozone Hotel … she said come down, we’ve got a spare cot,” he said.
“We’d actually helped her a few hours earlier set up a whole heap of cots or stretchers in the dining room.”
‘We were just freaking out’
Kate Heinrich was evacuated to Kingscote from her family’s sheep farm north of Parndana on Wednesday night and said she has been waiting for news on the fire situation.
“So I went home and spent my birthday yesterday here in Kingscote thinking this was the safest place on the island and then yesterday we got told that the fire was heading our way and we were just freaking out,” she said.
“Late last night we just packed up the house that I was staying with a couple of people in and we came here and I haven’t slept at all last night.
“We have just been hanging in the car waiting and waiting for news.
“Luckily I found out my family are OK but they dodged a bullet because the fire just came right at the edge of my farm.”
Kingscote resident Jeanene Ellson said despite the stress of the situation people were coming together.
“We’re all pretty stressed but we think the safest place to be is near the sea, so that if you have to go in the water, you can,” she said.
“We’ve got plenty of open space here, we’re just hoping that maybe the wind might change enough or drop out enough that it will just bypass, we’re hoping.”
Her husband, Peter Ellson, said it was a lot to process.
“I just can’t get my head around it. It’s never happened my whole life on the island, never like this,” he said.
Alana Furniss fled her property at Cygnet River with her children, while her husband fights the fire.
“It’s scary, though, because I’m here with three kids asleep in the car. This is our third spot,” she said.
“We came in from Cygnet River, because our house is out there. So, I don’t know whether that’s still there or not.
“We went to one friend’s, and then we went to another friend in Kingscote, and now we’re here, so we’re crossing our fingers that everyone stays safe.”
Cory Sutton: From my niece’s house in Adelaide … the ash coming all the way from Kangaroo Island
Smoke, ash reaches Adelaide
SA Health said smoke drifting across South Australia this morning could be some of the heaviest seen during recent bushfires.
It has warned people to stay inside, avoid opening doors and windows and to switch car air conditioners to recirculate.
The smoke could stick around until midday when some rain has been forecast and chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said people should take extra care.
“People with existing heart and lung conditions, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis, emphysema or heart disease and angina, they’re all more vulnerable to the effects of smoke and so we do advise it’s very important that these people stay indoors where possible,” she said.
Kat Koopman who lives in Adelaide, shot footage of ash from the Kangaroo Island bushfires, falling at her home.
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