Heat has Lachlan on fire

A number of fires have threatened homes, businesses and schools across the Lachlan region over the past week as residents sweltered in hot, dry and windy conditions.

• Footage taken from a NSW Rural Fire Service aeroplane shows the quick spread of a grass fire following the fireworks explosion at Bogan Gate on Sunday. Source: NSW Rural Fire Service

A number of fires have threatened homes, businesses and schools across the Lachlan region over the past week as residents sweltered in hot, dry and windy conditions.

• Evacuated staff and students at Condobolin High School watch the smoke rise from their classrooms on Friday morning after an air conditioner caught fire. Contributed

By Lara Pearce

A number of fires have threatened homes, businesses and schools across the Lachlan region over the past week as residents sweltered in hot, dry and windy conditions.

More than 200 staff and students from Condobolin High School were evacuated last Friday when an air conditioning unit caught fire.

The fire was seen in a vacant classroom shortly before 11am and the emergency alert was set off.

Students and staff watched from the school oval as a ream of smoke wafted into the air. The local NSW Fire and Rescue team arrived swiftly and were able to contain the fire to the air conditioning ducts above two classrooms.

The blaze extinguished, fire crews stayed on the scene to monitor gas levels in other classrooms.

School staff have reassured parents and carers that fire safety procedures went smoothly and students were able to return to classrooms within an hour of the alert being set off.

However, there has been considerable smoke and water damage to the rooms. Alternative classrooms for students are being arranged while assessments are made as to whether or not classrooms will have to be replaced.

In another incident, an explosion at the fireworks storage unit at Bogan Gate made national headlines as more than twenty homes were evacuated within a two kilometre radius.

At 5pm on Sunday, the shed containing fireworks exploded, breaking windows, knocking people off their feet and sending tremors across the ground to Parkes. Within minutes, a thick pink plume of toxic smoke from combusted fireworks expanded across the town.

Fire crews and police were quick to establish an exclusion zone, as the shed was nearby to other storage areas housing explosives. Residents were not allowed back into their homes until 11pm that evening.

The explosion also ignited a grass fire nearby, which quickly spread out of control with fire crews unable to access the fire due to dangerous conditions. Aeroplane bombing helped to prevent the escalation of the blaze, which was contained within a 20 hectare area by Tuesday morning.

Whether the fire was the result of the scorching heat or the work of a deliberate arsonist is yet to be determined. Police have established a crime scene and forensic crews are investigating what remains of the shed.

Due to the high fire danger on Sunday, there was a total fire ban and farmers in the Lachlan region were asked to stop harvesting.

In spite of precautions, by early on Sunday afternoon two of the three Watch and Act warnings issued in New South Wales were in the area.

A fire started close to the Girral-Lake Cargelligo Road near Ungarie on Sunday morning and quickly spread out of control in the hot, windy conditions. Fire crews worked to protect outbuildings and sheds as residents were warned to be ready to move if the fire spread.

After burning through around 500 hectares of scrub, the fire was contained by fire crews late on Sunday and the fire alert was downgraded to Advice.

Another grass fire lit up near Tullamore Road in the Tullamore region on Sunday morning, spreading quickly in the hot and windy conditions. Residents on Crowleys Lane were evacuated at around midday Sunday as fire crews and aircraft worked to protect their homes.

While the fire has been brought under control thanks to the work of fire crews combined with cooler and damper temperatures on Monday, the fire had burnt through 2,200 hectares of scrub and farmland by Monday night.

While cooler temperatures brought relief to many, the storms introduced a new threat. Widespread lightning started up many fresh blazes across the state, with the light rain insufficient to extinguish the flames.

According to the NSW Rural Fire Service, at 7:30pm on Monday evening there were 107 known grass and bush fires across New South Wales, 71 of which were uncontained.

It’s not easy finding your way home from Bogan Gate

Eddie Marold and new found friend Bob Smidey releasing pigeons at Bogan Gate.

By Dominic Geiger

The skies over Bogan Gate were filled with pigeons last Saturday as part of the start to Cowra Racing Pigeon Club’s 2011 season.

Approximately 132 pigeons made the 116km journey home from Bogan Gate while a second group of birds were released from Grenfell.

Despite clear skies at the time of release, progressively worsening conditions throughout the day saw only 90% of the pigeons return to Cowra.

President of the Cowra Racing Pigeon Club, Greg Wright, said the pigeons used the magnetic pull of the poles to orientate themselves.

“Many birds are able to sense the earth’s magnetic field,” he said.

“They can also apparently see up to 150 miles in front of them,” he said.

Greg said the pigeon’s ability to navigate would truly be put to the test over the coming months.

“Bogan Gate was just early days; we’ll be there again next week before slowly moving north to Tullamore, Tottenham and Nyngan,” he said.

“By the end of the season we’ll be letting the pigeons go from incredible distances including Charleville and Cunnamulla in Queensland.”

The flock of pigeons will be released at 12pm this Saturday in Bogan gate.

Anyone interested in finding more information on the Cowra Racing Pigeon Club can visit the club’s website at http://cowraracingpigeonclub.yolasite.com/

Eddie and Bob watch the pigeons soar away.


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