Featured / News / 18th January 2024
Duck Creek Fire extinguished
The Duck Creek Fire was one of the biggest fires to ever hit the Pilliga Forest, burning more than 130,000 hectares - more than a quarter of the vast scrub - before being officially extinguished early January.
On 7 December 2023 a dry lightning storm passed over the Pilliga Forest and a fire quickly erupted.
The bushfire escalated to emergency levels and broke containment lines after a heatwave in mid-December.
Residents within Bohena Creek and Rocky Glen areas were safely evacuated.
At its peak, 47 trucks, eight aircraft and more than 100 personnel were deployed to fight the fire. Narrabri Rural Fire Service (RFS) was the first on the ground when the fire ignited.
As the fire gained momentum other emergency services, community groups and volunteers were called in.
RFS were joined by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, State Forests and strike forces from the Blue Mountains and coastal regions.
Due to accumulated moisture from past wet seasons, an extensive amount of ground-level fuel loads contribnuted to the intense burning of the fire.
While erratic wind conditions quickly spread the smoke to Dubbo, Tamworth and eventually 500 kilometres away to Sydney.
Narrabri RFS district manager, Michael Brooks said the RFS was appreciative of those who assisted on the fireground.
Mr Brooks said the un-forecasted rain throughout the end of December aided immensely in helping bring the fire under control.
At one point, within 24 hours, 93 millimetres of rain was dumped, south of Narrabri.
The rain was a welcomed reprieve to emergency services, however, RFS remain on watch as the official bushfire season continues to the end of March.
“We are expecting minor re-ignitions from stumps and root systems burning under ground,” Mr Brooks said.
“There are lighter fires currently burning from other lighting strikes - the leaves can fall and ignite small areas.
“People should prepare at all times and reduce fuel around their assets and access roads.
“A fire only takes a few of those extreme days where it hits close to 40 degrees and humidity drops down to a single figure. Then we add lighting on top of that!”
The gas wells connected to the Narrabri Gas Project were also affected and the threat of bushfire has been raised as one of the reasons why the project should not go ahead.
Mr Brooks said the outcome was that the fire had restricted access to the gas zones and Santos had shut down present day operations.
The Coonabarabran Times has repeatedly reached out to Santos for comment, but at the time of print, had not received a response.
The outcome of animal lives and habitats had also raised concern after the fire.
A National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) spokesperson said wildlife was protected within the Feral Predator Free Area.
“Smoke was not an issue to wildlife within in the fence,” said the spokesperson.
“A hazard reduction burn was conducted by NPWS and Australian Wildlife Conservancy within the fenced area in 2022. This mitigated potential risk to protected wildlife.
“The presence of fire trails on either side of the perimeter fence creates an additional buffer around the enclosure.”
NPWS and RFS are prepared to respond to any ignitions within the Shire and residents should remain up to date on the RFS app, Fires Near Me.
Photo: Crews pumping water at the Duck Creek Fire last year (NSW RFS)