Fire crews brace for heatwave this weekend
FIRE crews are bracing for a potentially hazardous heatwave hitting the Clarence Valley this weekend.
The mercury is tipped to hit 36 degrees in Grafton and Yamba, with north westerly winds to reach gusts of up to 60kmh.
The NSW Rural Fire Service this week issued the first total fire bans of the season for several regions including the North Coast and is expected the fire danger rating will be lifted to very high tomorrow.
While the bushfire season has already well and truly begun with crews kept busy in the past month throughout the region, the Clarence Valley Rural Fire Service district manager Superintendent Stuart Watts said fire crews will be in position to respond rapidly to any incidents.
"Current fire situation the fires that have been burning in the Clarence Valley during the past week are in controlled status," Supt Watts said.
"A lot of our brigades had a bit of respite between the recent major fires and will be ready to ramp up over the weekend, performing regular patrols and being ready to respond to any incidents that may occur."
Rapid Aerial Response Team activated
A Rapid Aerial Response Team based out of Casino Airport was initiated at 10am this morning along with a total fire ban and fire permit suspension for 24 hours from Saturday.
Northern Rivers RFS zone manager Daniel Ainsworth said the response team is trained for major fires and comprises specialist volunteers allocated to a helicopter.
The RART crew will be on stand-by monitoring a 150km radius from Grafton in the south to the Queensland border.
Mr Ainsworth said lightning storms, high temperatures and gusty winds forecast for Saturday have elevated the fire danger warning close to severe.
"Saturday's weather in particular has hit a lot of our triggers for activating a higher level of alert," Mr Ainsworth said.
"Although we've had storms in the area some people have got some rain, other areas have missed out.
"In the country areas it's still very dry and any new fires will take off very quick in these weather conditions."
RART can be in the air and on their way to a major fire within 10 minutes of the triple zero call being made.
The crew will be on stand-by until Saturday afternoon. An extension of their services may be required weather pending.
Continuing investigation, monitoring of bushfire north of Grafton
Fire crews have been fighting a major bushfire which was believed to have been deliberately lit in the Fortis Creek National Park 20km north of Grafton for more than a week.
Supt Watts said while the fire, which has burned through almost 8000 hectares of scrubland, was currently in a controlled status, he warned residents to watch for increasing smoke and suspicious activity.
"From time to time people may see small bits of internal burning or smoke coming from within containment lines," Supt Watts said.
"If you are concerned please call the Rural Fire Service or Triple-0 as soon as you can.
"Community members of Fortis Creek and The Pinnacles areas have been helping police with their inquiries into the fire.
"Our intelligence networks will continue patrols throughout the Clarence Valley to curb anti-social behaviour in terms of lighting fires.
"With the particularly warm weather coming along, we ask the general public to be mindful and refrain from lighting any sort of fire until the hot weather blows over.
"Call the police police if you see any suspicious activity."