Residents have described their panic as they prepared to evacuate their homes when a fire burned bushland at Ulan this week and was stopped just short of an explosives plant in the area.
The fire, which has so far burned a five-hectare area near the Moolarben coal mine was at one point on Tuesday classified at 'Emergency Level', indicating that the fire posed an immediate risk to people's lives. As of Thursday the fire had been downgraded to 'Advice' and appears to have been contained.
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Resident of the area where the fire was burning and coincidentally, current work experience student at the Mudgee Guardian Samantha Barnes described what it was like preparing to evacuate.
"It was terrifying know that the fire could come near us at any time. You don't know what's going to happen next or if you will get out," Samantha said.
"I wondered what would happen after it hit. Where would we go? What if the fire doesn't stop?
"It's hard to decide what to take with you as you can't take everything, but you don't want to leave anything behind."
Inspector Troy Gersback from the Cudgegong Fire Control Centre said the Ulan fire was labelled 'Emergency' partly due to its proximity to the explosives plant.
"For the Ulan fire, three brigades assisted with that fire specifically. We also had a response from another three brigades into Ulan itself and a strike team that were able to give us surge capacity in case it escalated," Insp Gersback said.
"We also had assistance from a fixed wing aircraft and had two drops from the two RFS large air tankers (Known as LAT) that did retardant drops along that fire to prevent it crossing Ulan Road."
You don't know what's going to happen next or if you will get out.Samantha Barnes
Representatives from Police, Mid-Western Regional Council, Fire and Rescue and Ambulance were all in attendance in at the Fire Control Center in Mudgee at this time.
Insp Gersback said there have been 17 new fires just in the Mid-Western Region since the recent thunderstorms earlier in the week and to-date, five fires continue to be monitored within the region.
Currently we still have five fires up on the board. Two of those are at 'Patrol', two of those are at 'Being Controlled' and one of those is 'Going' so the two that are on 'Patrol' is the Ulan Road one and one we had pop up yesterday on the Bylong Valley Way at Upper Growee," he said.
"Due to the hard work of crews we've been able to get around those utilising heavy plant and aircraft. We will continue to monitor those over the coming days. Crews are currently out at Barney's Reef road and the fires down in Queens Pinch road.
"We do anticipate that we will be able to move both of them to contained status and hopefully even control status."
Another fire that may prove challenging for firefighters is currently burning at Peters Creek Road in Barrigan. Insp Gersback said the fire is burning in very remote and inaccessible terrain which means they must rely on aerial response teams which includes winching remote-area firefighters into the area while the fire is still small and the weather plays nice.
A timely reminder for residents
Insp Gersback wanted to remind residents to make sure they're prepared.
"It's still Spring, Summer is yet to dawn upon us, though it feels like Summer currently so we are in for another long bushfire season," he said.
"We strongly encourage all residents and landholder to ensure that they are as prepared as possible. That they do have a bushfire survival plan in place and they do know what they will do should they be threatened by a bushfire."
Insp Gersback added that he wanted to extend a huge thank you to all the volunteer firefighters for their efforts since Sunday.
"A number of brigades have been going 24 hours in some respects with back-to-back days of operations," Insp Gersback said.
"Due to their efforts we've been able to keep these fires small. We've been able to contain and control them very quickly which is no mean feat in the ongoing dry, drought conditions we're seeing."
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