Damaging winds hamper efforts to contain bushfire
UPDATE, 2.30PM: Fire conditions have eased at Whiteman Creek this afternoon but residents are urged to continue to monitor fire activity in the area.
"We're looking at conditions easing later this evening, which will hopefully allow firefighters to consolidate and strengthen containment under more favourable conditions," NSW Rural Fire Service spokesperson James Morris said.
"However, it's still going to be a long afternoon for firefighters."
ORIGINAL STORY, 10.30AM: Firefighters have gone into damage control as strong winds hamper efforts to build containment lines at a bushfire west of Grafton.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has alerted a Watch and Act status for the grassfire at Whiteman Creek, which started yesterday and has so far covered an area of 286ha.
Fire activity has increased throughout the day as strong westerly wind gusts in excess of 50km/h push the fire in an easterly direction along the Clarence Way.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds in many parts of the state including the Northern Rivers at 10.24am today.
Clarence RFS Superintendent Stuart Watts said there was no chance of containment at this stage due to the strong winds.
"Crews are focused on protecting assets on Whiteman Creek Road," Supt Watts said.
"While this wind is still pushing fairly hard it's quite challenging for firefighters to contain the fire and at this time the priority is to defend property until such times as the weather permits.
"People in the area should enact their bushfire survival plan and follow advice from firefighters."
All roads in the area remain open.
The Whiteman Creek fire is one of 12 currently burning in the Clarence Valley region engaging more than 100 firefighters.
According to Supt Watts the Whiteman Creek fire and two others are currently a cause for concern for crews and residents.
"We have three fires that are going with our main focus being the Whiteman Creek fire," Supt Watts said
"The other fires are at Firth Heinz Road in the Pillar Valley and in the northwest of the Clarence Valley near Kimbin Pikatene Road at a locality called Alice.
"These are the fires that are causing the most concern at this time given their proximity to a number of rural dwellings that have come under impact this morning.
Supt Watts confirmed no dwellings have been lost in the region at this point in time.
"More than a hundred firefighters are currently spread across a number of fires throughout the Clarence Valley, supported by heavy plants such as bulldozers and tractors and also two fixed wing aircraft," he said.
"RFS crews are being assisted with resources from National Parks and State Forests."
There are currently a total of 60 fires across the state, engaging more than 350 firefighters.
There is one current emergency warning at Old Station Rd at Verges Creek near Kempsey and two other Watch and Act fires also in the Kempsey area.