Backburning operations to continue at Lennox Head tonight
SUMMARY: FIREFIGHTERS are battling to contain a fire in coastal scrub between Lennox Head and Broken Head, at one point beating the flames back from several homes.
The fire began on Sunday night with a lightning strike near the corner of the Coast Road and Tobin Close, just north of Lennox Head.
A strong southerly wind fanned the fire and drove it north, spreading it across 200 hectares in the space of a few hours and threatening homes at Bundaleer Road. The fire is now spread out over more than 500ha.
UPDATE 6.40pm: ROSS Lane at Lennox Head has been closed to traffic as firefighters continue to battle a blaze in the coastal scrub between Lennox Head and Broken Head.
The Rural Fire Service has advised that backburning operations are continuing in the vicinity of Camp Drew north of Lennox Head, along the south-western boundary of the Lennox Head township and around Tobin Close.
"The backburn is necessary to secure the fire perimeter and provide safety to the Lennox Head township," the RFS states on its website.
"Residents will see significant amounts of smoke in the area due to backburning. Report any unattended fires to Triple 0."
More than 40 firefighters and two aircraft are working on the fire, which has now burnt more than 500 hectares.
Northern Star Photographer Patrick Gorbunovs took this footage of the Lennox Head blaze from The Point on Monday night:
UPDATE 9.10am: THE Coast Road remains closed and residents evacuated from areas near the fire have been told they are unlikely to be able to be allowed to return to their homes until after lunchtime today.
Firefighters have spent the night around the Linneaus estate, Bundaleer Road and Broken Head Road working on a back-burning operation aimed at containing the blaze and preventing it from endangering any more homes.
The evacuation centre set up at Byron High last night has been closed and improved weather conditions overnight have reduced the blaze to an "Alert" status - from the top "Emergency" level last night.
However, the fire is not yet under control - it is listed on the Rural Fire Service website as "being controlled" - and the RFS is still advising anyone not prepared to defend their homes from a fire to leave.
UPDATE 11.20pm: FIREFIGHTERS have beaten back the flames from homes on Bundaleer Road, Broken Head and the Rural Fire Service has now downgraded the blaze from "Emergency" to "Watch and Act".
The RFS says the blaze, which has now burned through close to 200 hectares of scrub, reached several properties along Bundaleer Road, but firefighters successfully defended the homes and there were no reports of property damage.
Easing weather conditions are helping firefighters. However, the Rural Fire Service says about 40 RFS volunteers will remain in the Linneaus community overnight "to monitor the situation".
Firefighters hope to do some backburning overnight to create a fire break that will contain the blaze, which continues to burn out-of-control. This means residents watching the blaze are likely to see more flames.
Despite the downgrading of the fire's danger level, the Rural Fire Service is still telling residents in the path of the fire to follow their bushfire survival plans and to leave their homes if they are not able to properly defend them.
"Only well prepared and actively defended homes can offer safety," the RFS advises.
An evacuation centre has been set up at Byron High School for residents escaping the fire and some have already settled in there.
When The Northern Star dropped by the centre about an hour ago, there were about 17 evacuees from Bundaleer Road, Linneaus Estate and Broken Head Road settling in for the night.
Among the evacuees was holiday-maker Chris Schindler, of Tasmania, and her grandchildren Elli and William Fearn, of Bowen in Queensland.
UPDATE 10.05pm: FIREFIGHTERS have begun moving into the Linneaus community to prepare to protect homes from the approaching blaze.
The Rural Fire Service says the fire is yet to reach Bundaleer Road, putting the fire front several kilometres south of the upmarket housing estate, which sits a short way south of the Broken Head Hall.
However, the RFS also warns the strong southerly wind driving the blaze could blow embers well ahead of the front, starting new spot fires.
The RFS says the fire could start endangering homes at any time within the next two hours.
The ABC is reporting more the 30 firefighters are now engaged in the battle against the blaze, which is burning out-of-control across 100 hectares.
The RFS's Inspector Ben Shepherd has told the ABC firefighters had been focused on property protection.
UPDATE 9.30pm: HOMES around the out-of-control fire approaching Broken Head are expected to come under direct threat from the blaze within the next two hours, the Rural Fire Service warns.
"Under these conditions, fires are uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving," the RFS warns on its website.
"Embers will be blown ahead of the fire, creating spot fires that will move quickly and in different directions.
"These spot fires may threaten your home earlier than the predicted main fire front."
Residents not prepared to defend their homes from a bushfire and who are planning to leave should do so now and head towards Byron Bay.
Byron High School has been set up as an evacuation point.
"Follow your Bush Fire Survival Plan," the RFS advises.
"If you do not have a Bush Fire Survival Plan, ensure you know what you will do if the fire threatens your property.
"Only well prepared and actively defended homes can offer safety.
"If you are in doubt or it is not safe to leave, take shelter in a solid structure when the fire front arrives. Protect yourself from the heat of the fire."
The fire is currently burning over an area of 100 hectares and is being driven north toward Bundaleer Road by strong southerly winds.
UPDATE 8.50pm: THE fire burning between Lennox and Broken Head has been upgraded to "Emergency" level by the Rural Fire Service.
The emergency level is the highest warning level available to the Rural Fire Service and matches the warning level used for fires in the recent devastating Blue Mountains fires.
Residents have been told to activate their bushfire survival plans. Anyone wanting to evacuate should leave now and head towards Byron Bay, the RFS has advised,
The fire has now burned out about 100ha of scrub land and is being driven north by strong southerly winds.
The Coast Road remains closed between Midgen Flat Road and Ross Lane.
UPDATE 8.35pm: RESIDENTS between Lennox Head and Broken Head are being advised to activate their bush fire survival plans as the scrub fire in the area continues to burn out of control.
The Rural Fire Service has now upgraded the status of the fire from "Alert" to "Watch and Act".
"Watch and Act" is the second-highest of the four alert categories for fires listed by the RFS.
8.10pm: THE Coast Road between Lennox Head and Broken Head has been closed as rural fire crews fight to contain an out-of-control fire sparked by a lightning strike this evening.
The Rural Fire Service says the fire is focused at the corner of the Coast Road and Tobin Close north of Lennox Head. Police have said no evacuations have been ordered, but some residents in the area are understood to be leaving.
At present the fire, although out of control, is not threatening any homes and the Rural Fire Service has it listed as an alert. As of 7.30pm the fire had burned out 20ha.
The fire has forced the closure of the Coast Road south of Midgen Flat Road.