Despite its extreme size, the new mega-blaze may be a blessing in disguise to battling fire crews.
“In a way, where they touch up, it is a good thing because they’re running out of fuel,” RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Saturday.
Paul Muir, the deputy incident controller for part of the mega-blaze, agreed the development could be positive, though for different reasons.
“In some ways it does help. We only have two active edges,” he said. “We’ve lost one active edge [where the fires merged].”
Mr Muir said his team never wanted the fires to merge, but with calmer weather, there might be an opportunity to get the situation under control.
“With the weather, they’re are slowing. They’ve dropped back today. With a bit more humidity in the air, [there’s a chance] to put the control lines in.”
The mega-blaze was formed by a collision of the Dunns Road fire, which began west of Adelong; the East Ournie Creek fire, from just north of the Murray and the Green Valley fire, which started east of Albury.
Late last year, the Green Valley fire took the life of RFS volunteer, Samuel McPaul, after cyclonic winds knocked over his fire truck.
A week into January, the Dunns Road fire covered a terrifying 313,000 hectares and was savaging Batlow and surrounds. Apple orchards were incinerated, houses were lost and the famous Sugar Pine tourist walk was gutted by flames.
David Harrison, from Goulburn, died of a heart attack while defending a friend’s Batlow home from the inferno.
By Friday morning, the Dunns Road and East Ournie blazes were just 300 metres apart. Then, with winds raging, the two fires crashed into one another, their fronts merging.
Around the same time, “a finger” of the Green Valley fire began jutting into the East Ournie Creek blaze, completing the merger.
Locals have feared the merger for some time.
“It was predicted a week ago,” said Sue Scanlon, publican at the Tumbarumba Hotel. “That’s always been the biggest threat for Tumbarumba.”
But the town had a reprieve when 100 km/h winds, predicted for Friday night, did not arrive.
The RFS cannot say when the mega-blaze will be extinguished. “Rain is about the only thing that can help us,” Mr Muir said.
Janek Drevikovsky is an intern journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.