UPDATED

Port Stephens fire threat clears as Salt Ash, Shoal Bay bushfires remain at 'advice' and 'under control'

Monday 5pm:

As the bushfires in Port Stephens were brought further under control on Monday, fire services and government officials began assessing the response to the emergency situation at the weekend.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald attended a debrief on the fires that burned through bush land at Salt Ash and Shoal Bay on Monday morning and said that the spread of misinformation on social media about the Tilligerry Peninsula blaze had been a hot issue.

"People have to listen to the right sources of information," he said. "There was some misinformation on Saturday night about evacuations on the Tilligerry Peninsula, which confused people."

The Rural Fire Service update their website, www.rfs.nsw.gov.au, and social media pages regularly with fire information. 

This information is also available on the RFS' Fires Near Me app.

Road closure information can be found on www.livetraffic.com.

Representatives from RFS, Fire & Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Port Stephens-Hunter police and mayor Ryan Palmer attended Monday's meeting, held at the Lower Hunter Fire Control Centre in Maitland.

Cr Palmer said it was "great" to hear from each organisation that played a role in the coordinated fire response, to learn from them how the incident unfolded.

"There were certainly some hairy moments on Saturday night and the RFS showed us the fire front, how it had progressed and where they worked to slow it down," he said.

"I have nothing but praise for the Rural Fire Service's asset protection zones. Without this, houses would have been destroyed.

"The RFS made a point [on Monday] that they could have done all the [hazard reduction] burning in the world, but without that 30 metre asset protection zone at the back of Tilligerry Track, they would not have been able to protect those houses.

"Everyone did a wonderful job on the weekend to coordinate their efforts to protect the residents and properties of the Tilligerry Peninsula."

Cr Palmer thanked all emergency services that responded to the fire, and the generosity of the community.

Residents dropped food, water and blankets to brigades and muster points where residents unable to return to their homes gathered including Tanilba Bay Golf Club, Tilligerry RSL and Club Lemon Tree, and Salt Ash Church of Christ.

The Tilligerry Peninsula bushfire has scorched more than 2040 hectares of bush land within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area since it was first detected on Friday morning.

Salt Ash, Oyster Cove, Tanilba Bay and Mallabula have been the worst affected.

However, only one caravan near Tanilba Bay Golf Club was destroyed in the fire.

No homes or properties were damaged by the fire, which remains at 'advice' level.

A fire at Box Beach in Shoal Bay, which arose on Saturday morning, was also at 'advice' level on Monday afternoon.

It has burned 38 hecatres of bush land within Tomaree National Park.

At one stage on Saturday morning there was five fires burning in Port Stephens. Aside from the Shoal Bay and Salt Ash fires, there was two in residential streets in Medowie and another at Mallabula.

Firefighters have been strengthening containment lines on the Tilligerry throughout Monday and, at 4.30pm, have contained the fire.

Lemon Tree Passage Road has been reopened to traffic. 

Motorists moving through the area are advised to exercise caution with smoke reducing visibility and firefighters continuing to work in the area.

The RFS advises:

  • People in the areas of Salt Ash, Oyster Cove, Tilligerry, Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage should continue to monitor the situation closely and be prepared to enact your Bush Fire Survival Plan.
  • Follow the advice of firefighters on the ground.

Monday 8am:

Fire crews worked throughout the night to strengthen containment lines on the Tilligerry Peninsula ahead of strong winds forecast for Monday.

The bush fire that has scorched around 2016 hectares of bush land within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area since Friday morning was on Monday at ‘advice’ level and ‘being controlled’.

However, the RFS has warned forecasts of gusty winds in some parts of the state on Monday could cause fires to flare up again.

Wind speeds of up to 30 kilometres per hour have been forecast for Medowie, west of Salt Ash this afternoon, with maximum temperatures of around 17 degrees.

RFS had around 63 firefighters working on the fire ground on Monday. A spokesperson said that, subject to conditions, RFS were hoping to have the fire contained within the next 48 hours.

“We are certainly not out of trouble yet,” the spokesperson said.

Crews will continue to monitor the fire throughout the day.

A fire that has burned 38 hectares of bush at Box Beach in Shoal Bay since Saturday morning is also at ‘advice’ level.

Firefighters will remain on the fire ground today and may undertake backburning if conditions allow.

Lemon Tree Passage Road has been reopened to traffic.

Motorists moving through the area are advised to exercise caution with smoke reducing visibility and firefighters continuing to work in the area.

The RFS is advising:

  • People in the areas of Salt Ash, Oyster Cove, Tilligerry, Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage should continue to monitor the situation closely and be prepared to enact your Bush Fire Survival Plan.
  • Follow the advice of firefighters on the ground.

Sunday 4.45PM: 

The NSW Rural Fire Service has downgraded the Salt Ash fire from the Emergency alert level to Watch and Act. 

“Easing conditions on the fire ground has seen the threat to homes reduced,” the RFS said in a statement. 

“Residents in the area should continue to monitor the situation should it change.”

The fire, which has now burned more than 1900 hectares, is classified as being controlled. 

While Watch and Act indicates there is a heightened level of threat, it is a step down from the Emergency warning’s indication that broke out around lunchtime on Sunday.  

Reader Madison Johnston, 18, has shared this footage taken from Tilligerry Track on Saturday evening when the fire licked toward nearby houses.

Sunday 1.30pm: 

Westerlies are driving an increase in fire activity at Salt Ash. The blaze remains at an Emergency warning level as it continues to burn towards Rookes Road, Lemon Tree Passage Road and Brownes Road. 

“Embers may be blown well ahead of the fire, creating spot fires and threatening property before the main fire front arrives,” the RFS advises. 

Lemon Tree Passage Road has shut and emergency phone messages are being sent to residents in the area. Residents are advised it is too late to leave near the three roads and are urged to take shelter in a solid structure to protect themselves from the heat of the fire. 

Tilligerry, Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage residents are advised to monitor the situation closely and prepare to put their bushfire survival plan sinto action.

Sunday 12.20pm:

The fire has been re-elevated to emergency status, with residents in parts of Salt Ash urged to take shelter as the fire approaches.

Emergency alert telephone messages have been sent to people in the area.

“It is too late to leave,” the RFS said. 

“Take shelter in a solid structure to protect yourself from the heat of the fire.”

Strong westerly winds have increased the intensity of the fire, which is now burning towards Rookes Road, Lemon Tree Passage Road and Brownes Road. 

“Lemon Tree Passage Road is now open but may close as short notice,” the RFS advises.

“Motorists should exercise caution as firefighters continue to work in the area and visibility reduced due to smoke.

There are no confirmed reports of property loss or damage.

Residents in Tilligerry, Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage are advised to monitor the situation closely and remain vigilant.

The fire has burned more than 1700 hectares. 

Sunday 9am: 

Lemon Tree Passage Road reopened shortly before 2am, the RFS has confirmed, and disrupted power and telecommunications services have been restored on the Tilligerry Peninsula.

The fire has been downgraded from ‘watch and act’ to ‘advice’.

Fire crews are planning to push ahead with back-burning operations to thin the fuel source for the blaze that has already burned almost 1500 hectares of the Tilligerry State Conservation Area before winds increase later in the day. 

The efforts are expected to be along Lemon Tree Passage Road near Oyster Farm Road and Rutile Road near Tanilba Bay Avenue. 

“People in the area will notice an increase in fire activity as this occurs,” the RFS said in a statement. 

“Motorists travelling through the area should exercise caution as firefighters continue to work in the area and visibility reduced due to smoke.”

Residents in Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage are urged to keep monitoring the situation closely and to stay vigilant. 

“Ensure you know what you will do should the situation change,” the RFS said. 

“Follow the advice of firefighters on the ground.”

Saturday 11pm:

Firefighters will take advantage of the easing weather conditions to carry out backburning operations on the Tilligerry Peninsula throughout Saturday night.

The RFS has downgraded the fire from ‘emergency warning’ to ‘watch and act’.

Firefighters will now carry out backburning along Oyster Cove Road and Lemon Tree Passage Road.

Currently, there are no confirmed reports of property losses or damage.

Lemon Tree Passage Road is currently being assessed before it is reopened.

Oyster Cove Road is closed.

Police are escorting people out of the area while this assessment is completed.

The fire in the Salt Ash area has burnt out more than 1470 hectares.

The RFS is advising people in Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage to monitor the situation closely, remain vigilant and have a plan if the situation changes.

Power and telephone reception have been disrupted.

Heavy smoke is blanketing the areas around Salt Ash and Shoal Bay.

The fire at Box Beach in Shoal Bay appears to have subsided.

For fire information and updates, go rfs.nsw.gov.au.

For updates on road closures, check livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au.  

Saturday 9.30pm:

A south westerly wind change has moved the Salt Ash fire towards Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage.

The RFS has warned that the current wind conditions will make the fire that has now burned more than 1000 hectares of bush land “uncontrollable” and “move quickly”.

Spot fires have developed ahead of main fire front, caused by embers.

Firefighters are on scene protecting properties in the area.

The fire at the back of homes on Tilligerry Track:

Firefighters are helping people and caravans relocate from Koala Shores Port Stephens Caravan Park to the Lemon Tree Passage boat ramp at Henderson Park.

Heavy smoke has spread across Port Stephens.

Oyster Cove Road and Lemon Tree Passage Road, which is the main road in and out of the Tilligerry Peninsula, are closed.

Emergency alert telephone messages have been sent to residents in the area.

Power and telecommunications in the area are currently disrupted due to the fire.

Advice:

  • People in the areas of Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage areas should take shelter as the fire front approaches.
  • If you are physically and mentally prepared to defend your home, get ready to take shelter as the fire impacts. Properly prepared homes that are actively defended can provide safety during the fire.
  • If you don’t have a Bush Fire Survival Plan and your home is unprepared, go to your identified safer place. This may include a neighbouring property or area close by that is not at risk from bush fire.
  • If you are in doubt or the path is not clear, seek shelter now - if you are caught in the path of the fire you may die or be injured. Protect your body from radiant heat, smoke inhalation and flying embers by covering your skin with protective clothing made from natural fabrics.
  • If you are visiting the Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage areas and unable to leave, you can wait at the Club Lemon Tree (corner Gould Drive, Lemon Tree Passage) for further information.
  • Residents should remain vigilant to the threat of embers starting spot fires in and around properties overnight. Actively defend your property by monitoring your property and extinguishing spot fires. ​

Saturday 8pm:

A south-westerly wind change is impacting the fire grounds and residents in the Tanilba Bay area have been told to seek shelter as the firefront arrives. Fire activity has increased and now 1092 hectares has been affected.

Smoke is affecting much of Port Stephens. Firefighters remain on scene.

An emergency warning from the RFS at 7.45pm said the Salt Ash fire was moving in a north-easterly direction towards Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage.

Bush was also alight behind Box Beach near Shoal Bay, with some residents preparing to leave.

“We may get evacuated … say some prayers,” one resident told theherald.com.au.

The RFS said firefighters were assisting in moving people and caravans from Koala Shores Port Stephens Caravan Park to the Lemon Tree Passage boat ramp at Henderson Park. 

People may also be experiencing smoke and ash on the eastern side of Tilligerry Creek, on Marsh Road at Bobs Farm.

Residents around Brownes Road and Rookes Road should continue to monitor the situation.

Oyster Cove Road is closed. Lemon Tree Passage Road is closed.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: The view of bush burning at Box Beach from the dining-room window of a home at Shoal Bay about 6.30pm.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: The view of bush burning at Box Beach from the dining-room window of a home at Shoal Bay about 6.30pm.

Saturday 5pm:

The RFS is preparing for a wind change that may push an out of control bushfire at Salt Ash towards Tanilba Bay on Saturday evening.

Firefighters are in place to undertake property protection.

People may experience smoke and ash on the eastern side of Tilligerry Creek, on Marsh Road at Bobs Farm.

Residents around Brownes Road and Rookes Road are being advised to monitor the situation.

The doors to the Church of Christ at Salt Ash are open to Tilligerry residents unable to get to their homes.

The church is offering a free sausage sizzle, tea, coffee, water, toilets, and even face painting for children.

Lemon Tree Passage Road, the main road in and out of the Tilligerry Peninsula, and Oyster Cove Road is closed.

The video below of the fire at Lemon Tree Passage is from the NSW RFS.

Advice:

  • If you are south of Oyster Cove Road on Rookes Road or Lemon Tree Passage Road, put your Bush Fire Survival Plan into action now. If your plan is to leave early, leave now towards Nelson Bay Road.
  • People in the Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage areas should put their Bush Fire Survival Plans into action.
  • If you are visiting the Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage areas and unable to leave due to road closures, you can wait at the Club Lemon Tree (corner Gould Drive, Lemon Tree Passage) for further information on when the roads reopen.
  • If you do not have a plan, decide what you will do if the situation changes. Leaving early is your safest option.

Here is the scene that confronted firefighters on Saturday afternoon:

The Salt Ash fire has burned through more than 900 hectares of land within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area.

A fire at Mallabula and two fires that were burning in Medowie earlier on Saturday have been put out. Another fire, which arose early Saturday morning at Box Beach in Shoal Bay, is under control.

Saturday 2.30pm:

The Rural Fire Service has upgraded a bushfire at Salt Ash to the ‘emergency warning’ level and is urging Tilligerry Peninsula residents to put their survival plans into action.

The RFS advises:

  • If are on Rookes Road or Lemon Tree Passage Road, south of Oyster Cove Road, put your Bush Fire Survival Plan into action now.
  • People in the Tanilba Bay, Mallabula and Lemon Tree Passage areas should be prepared to put their Bush Fire Survival Plans into action.
  • If your plan is to leave early, leave now towards Nelson Bay Road.
  • If you do not have a plan, decide what you will do if the situation changes. Leaving early is your safest option.

Strong winds across the Hunter on Saturday stirred up the fire, which firefighters first responded to about 10.30am on Friday, from ‘advice’ to ‘watch and act’ to ‘emergency warning’.

At 2.30pm Saturday the fire was burning out of control.

The fire burning within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area, north of Lemon tree Passage Road, was upgraded from ‘watch and act’ to ‘emergency warning’ about 1.30pm.

It has consumed more than 700 hectares of bush land.

Lemon Tree Passage Road – the main road in and out of the Tilligerry peninsula – and Oyster Cove Road are closed.

Firefighters are in place to undertake property protection.

People on the eastern side of Tilligerry Creek, on Marsh Road at Bobs Farm, may experience smoke and ash.

Residents around Brownes Road and Rookes Road should continue to monitor the situation.

The Salt Ash fire is one of four firefighters are containing in Port Stephens.

Firefighters have a blaze in Coachwood Drive at Medowie and Hartford Street in Mallabula under control. Both fires broke out on Friday afternoon.

A fire at Box Beach in Shoal Bay, which firefighters responded to on Saturday morning, is also under control. 

The Medowie, Mallabula and Shoal Bay fires are at ‘advice’ level.

Friday 6pm:

Seventy-one firefighters were working to control the fire at Salt Ash at around 6pm this evening.

The blaze has covered around 104 hectares. 

Firefighters were assisted by two National Parks aircraft and 25 firefighting appliances from Rural Fire Service, NSW Fire and Rescue and National Parks and Wildlife.

RFS has adjusted a bushfire alert level in the area from watch and act to advice.

Residents have been advised to monitor conditions and to follow their bushfire survival plan.

Residents near Rookes Road should continue to monitor conditions closely, RFS has said.

RFS crews will continue to monitor and control the fire throughout the evening.

When conditions are favourable crews will conduct back burning operations, ahead of windy conditions tomorrow.

Friday 4pm:

The bushfire in Mallabula is now ‘under control’ but a watch and act alert remains on the fire at Salt Ash which has burned through 18 hectares of land.

The fire in Hartford Street, Mallabula has burned about one hectare of land.

It is at ‘advice’ level.

The Salt Ash fire, burning within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area off Lemon Tree Passage Road, is ‘out of control’ and at ‘watch and act’ level. 

The RFS said the fire is burning in a northerly direction towards Oyster Cove, adding that residents near Rookes Road should continue to monitor the situation.

The RFS advice for anyone in the area is to:

  • Monitor conditions in your area
  • Check and follow your Bush Fire Survival Plan
  • If you do not have a plan, decide what you will do if the situation changes. Leaving early is your safest option

Friday 3pm:

There are two out of control bush fires burning on the Tilligerry Peninsula.

Rural Fire Service crews are responding to a fire that has burned 19 hectares of bushland at Salt Ash and a second fire in Hartford Street at Mallabula.

The Salt Ash fire, burning within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area off Lemon Tree Passage Road, is at ‘Watch and Act’ level.

The Mallabula fire is at ‘Advice’ level.

The Salt Ash fire is now moving in a northerly direction towards Oyster Cove.

The RFS said residents near Rookes Road should continue to monitor the situation.

Raymond Terrace Fire & Rescue firefighters are now assisting.

The crew form part of a strike team consisting of five pumpers which have been tasked to assist the RFS with the Tilligerry Peninsula fires.

Friday 2.30pm:

The Rural Fire Service has upgraded an out of control bushfire at Salt Ash from ‘advice’ to ‘watch and act’.

The fire burning off Lemon Tree Passage Road has consumed 16 hectares of land within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area since RFS crews first responded to the fire about 10.30am on Friday.

The fire was first reported to be burning in Oyster Cove. 

While the bushfire was ‘being controlled’ by the RFS about 11am, at 1pm the fire was once again ‘out of control’.

There are two out of control bushfires burning on the Tilligerry Peninsula - one at Salt Ash and the other at Mallabula

There are two out of control bushfires burning on the Tilligerry Peninsula - one at Salt Ash and the other at Mallabula

The fire was upgraded to ‘watch and act’ level about 2.30pm.

The RFS said the fire is moving in a south-easterly direction towards Rookes Road, under north-westerly winds.

Crews are in position along Rookes Road to protect homes if needed.

Williamtown/Salt Ash Rural Fire Brigade, one of the brigades fighting the fire, took to its Facebook page to urge anyone travelling in the area to use caution and to “give way to all emergency service vehicles responding” to the incident.

The RFS advice for anyone in the area is to:

  • Monitor conditions in your area
  • Check and follow your Bush Fire Survival Plan
  • If you do not have a plan, decide what you will do if the situation changes. Leaving early is your safest option

Earlier:

Rural Fire Service crews from Port Stephens were containing a bushfire at Oyster Cove on Friday morning.

About six hectares of bush within the Tilligerry State Conservation Area has been burned by the fire which the RFS was alerted to at about 10.30am on Friday.

The fire, which is burning off Lemon Tree Passage Road, is at ‘advice’ level.

According to the RFS fire incident page, the fire is ‘being controlled’.

The Medowie Rural Fire Brigade, which are on scene to the fire, urged anyone travelling in the area to watch for emergency vehicles and follow instructions.

“We are all about keeping you safe,” the brigade posted to Facebook.

A 1pm update on the Fires Near Me website, which is also available to download on mobile.

A 1pm update on the Fires Near Me website, which is also available to download on mobile.

The Williamtown/Salt Ash Rural Fire Brigade, also on scene of the Oyster Cove bushfire, and said “crews are working on containment”.

The Oyster Cove fire comes after RFS crews dealt with one that burned about 10 hectares of land at Bobs Farm last weekend, which the RFS is conducting an investigation into.

Fire brigades from Anna Bay, Salt Ash, Soldiers Point, Fingal Bay and Medowie attended the blaze which started on Saturday night and, fanned by strong winds, continued into Sunday.

No lives or property were lost in the fire.

The abnormally dry conditions for this time of the year have experts warning all Port Stephens householders to be on the alert for an earlier than usual bushfire season.

The RFS said that the current conditions were a timely reminder for residents to check that they have a completed and practiced Bush Fire Survival Plan, in order to protect their family and property should they be threatened by fire.

“If you are not prepared for the bush fire season then you must act now,” RFS operational officer Guy Baddock said.

“Everyone should be using this time to prepare their property, which includes clearing gutters and removing fuel from around homes.

“All households should have a well-practiced Bush Fire Survival Plan so residents know what to do, particularly on days of increased fire danger, because there is no room for complacency when it comes to bush fire safety.”

Information on fires is posted daily at rfs.nsw.gov.au.

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