Lexton township waits for fire to hit after wind change
“People are just sitting around waiting – it’s a situation we’ve never been in before,” said Ms Smith, who was manning the post office’s desk because the manager left to attend her at-risk property.
“We’re concerned, if you know what I mean. We’re not going around being silly, but we’re concerned.”
Emergency services issued an ‘evacuate now’ notice just before 10.30, which incident controller Jon Rofe said was a recommendation.
The first emergency warning in the area was declared just before 5pm.
The fire had been burning south-easterly and into some private property, forming a long and thin line with a narrow head, about six kilometres from the town.
But a cool change whipped up winds from the south and west – toward the Lexton – at about 10pm, turning sections of the long flank into fire heads.
Sally Millard, who manages Father Bob’s Lourdes Camel Sanctuary with her husband, said the flames were between their property and Lexton and only about a kilometre from the boundary fence.
“There’s an orange glow on the ridge – lots and lots of spot fires and flashing lights from CFA trucks in the neighbouring paddocks,” she said. “You can hear the crackling of fire in the distance and see the changing of colours of the clouds.”
Mid-conversation with The Age, just after 10pm on Friday, she spotted dry lightning in the distance and felt the change in the wind.
Well known retired Catholic priest Father Bob Maguire is the patron of the sanctuary and had spoken to the Millards several times on Friday.
“Father Bob has apparently also already been on the phone to the big fella upstairs and he’s asked him to stop this s*** and send the wet stuff,” Ms Millard said.
Incident controller Rofe said evacuation notice was a precautionary measure.
“Part of the eastern flank has broken away under the influence of the south-westerly change. The risk to Lexton is moderate, but the recommendation (has been issued) to ensure the safety of residents,” he said.
He had earlier warned the forecast wind change would “pose a number of problems” for fire fighters if it came to fruition.
The area has been water-bombed by planes and helicopters, bulldozers were clearing fire breaks and about 150 fire fighters were on the ground, he said.
Ms Millard said she believed the fire had consumed the grounds of the Rainbow Serpent Festival, including the wooden structures in place for next month’s annual event. Several residents had told her the same thing, but this could not be verified by The Age on Friday night.
The Millards hope was that any wind change would blow the fire back in on itself, but their car was packed and they were ready to leave.
If necessary, the camels would be turned loose into a nearby paddock and rounded up on Saturday, Ms Millard said.
“They’re actually very calm. As long you stay calm and don’t rile them up they’re fine. They feed on people’s emotions,” she said. “They’ve got water and food and if things change we’ll them out into the paddock.”
The Red Cross opened a webpage to help residents affected by the fire to get in touch with loved ones.
People can register and look for someone with Register.Find.Reunite on the Red Cross website at register.redcross.org.au. Registration is also available at the emergency relief centre at the Learmonth Football Club, corner of High and Laidlaw streets in Learmonth.
“The Register.Find.Reunite service matches registrations from people affected by an emergency to enquiries made by their loved ones searching for news,” a Red Cross statement said. “Where a match is made, the person who made the enquiry will be notified.”
Zach is a reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org