A CAMP fire is the suspected cause of a shocking blaze tearing through bushland and threatening a school on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Oxford Falls Grammar School is in close range of the fire, which started at 5am. However, a Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesman said that wind conditions were favourable for the school.
“There were no disruptions at all to school today, although we have been in constant contact,” he said.
More than 100 firefighters were backburning just metres from homes in Beacon Hill today, in a frantic attempt to “box in” the out-of-control fire which ripped through more than 30 hectares of Red Hill reserve.
Firefighters and waterbombing aircraft are battling the blaze, with controlled burns taking place in the adjacent bushland ahead of tomorrow’s warmer and windier conditions.
Crews were expected to remain on scene all night to contain the fire, with temperatures above 30C and hot northwesterly winds expected to fan the fire tomorrow.
The fire is not connected with any hazard-reduction burns in the area over the weekend.
Rural Fire Service investigators are treating the blaze as suspicious and suspect campers allowed their fire to reach dense dry bush some time on Monday morning.
Nervous residents in Brooker Ave were told fire crews were backburning to starve the blaze of fuel just 100 metres from their homes.
“It just said ‘grass fire’ on the TV at work, then I saw my neighbour’s house and thought, ‘I better come and grab the dog just in case’,” one resident said.
Residents in Guardian Pde have been frantically clearing gutters since they woke to a grass fire this morning.
“I left home this morning fearing for our house, so I just had to come back and help my husband prepare the place,” Sarah said.
Many are still haunted by memories of a “black day” in 1994 when a fire swept through Beacon Hill and surrounding suburbs, razing homes.
“It went right through Oxford Falls and all Elanora went, it just kept on coming,” one resident said.
Dozens of fire crews are lighting controlled fires near homes but the out-of-control blaze is occasionally visible in the centre of Red Hill Reserve.
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The RFS said although there was no immediate threat to homes in the area, residents near Lady Penrhyn Dr, Oxford Falls Rd, Brooker Ave, Guardian Pde, Wearden Rd, Reynolds Cres, Boyer Rd, Barnes Rd, Dreadnought Rd and Golden Grove have been told to monitor the situation and take advice from firefighters in the area.
“It looks like we’ll burn the whole of Red Hill Reserve as the back-burn continues for the next few hours,” Northern Beaches RFS district officer Insp Alex Chesser said.
“Firefighters will remain on the scene tonight and again tomorrow, when we expect temperatures to reach 30 degrees and there will be strong northwesterly winds.
“Although there is a lot of smoke in the area and residents will see helicopters overhead, there is no reason for concern.”
RFS spokesman Ben Shepherd said it was hoped crews would have the blaze contained ahead of tomorrow’s total fire ban and worsening conditions.
“Crews are undertaking back-burns to try to contain the fire,” he said.
“Tomorrow’s fire ban should be a wake-up call for people to ensure properties are prepared ahead of the fire season.”