The Richmond Vale fire

FINAL UPDATE: Conditions are easing on the fire ground.

Continue to monitor the situation and take advice from firefighters who are working in the area.

For up-to-date information use this website.

5.30pm: Firefighters have formed containment lines around fires at both Black Hill and Richmond Vale.

Conditions have eased, however Rural Fire Service spokesperson Stuart O’Keefe said emergency services were concerned about southerly winds set to hit the Hunter at about 8pm.

He said a strong southerly would push the fire north and potentially impact the areas of Pelaw Main and Kurri Kurri Hospital, but that it was not clear exactly how strong the winds will be.

5pm: A Section 44 has been declared in response to the fires burning around the Hunter on Wednesday. 

A Section 44 is declared by the Rural Fire Service when conditions become too much for local emergency service resources. It means firefighting resources can be pulled from any and all other areas to assist.

4.30pm: A bushfire is continuing to burn in the area of Browns Road at Black Hill, to the west of the M1.

Firefighters are working in the area to contain the fire and have the upper hand.

4.10pm: Conditions are easing at the bushfire burning in the area of Richmond Vale, between Pelaw Main and Mulbring.

3.40pm: A bush fire is also burning in the area of Browns Road at Black Hill, to the west of the M1.

The fire has burnt through about 50 hectares. It was ignited some time before 9.30am because of a burnt out car.

There were reports of evacuations at the local school, but these were false. Black Hill Public school followed its own bushfire survival plan and all students were collected safely.

There are a number of rural properties along Black Hill Road which may come under threat, but as yet no residents have been evacuated.

Fire crews are working to stop the fire before it reaches John Renshaw Drive, or residential areas.

If you are in the area and your plan is leave, leave now if the path is clear. If the fire impacts on your property, seek shelter and protect yourself from the heat of the fire.

There is heavy smoke in the area and the fire is at watch and act level.

Further south there is a fire in the Watagans National Park.

Heaton State Forest and Watagans National Park near Freemans Waterhole are being immediately evacuated and closed.

Forestry Corporation of NSW is asking all visitors to leave the Watagan Mountains without delay and not to attempt to enter the area.

A bushfire in Heaton State Forest is spreading fast in the area north of Mt Faulk Road, Heaton Road and Watagan Forest Road towards Watagan National Park.

Watagan Forest Road and Mt Faulk Road will be closed from Freemans Drive and Watagan Forest Road will be closed from Sandy Creek Road at Quorrobolong.

Forestry Corporation has dispatched extra crews to the area and is working closely with the Rural Fire Service.

3.26pm: The bushfire has been downgraded to watch and act.

The fire is burning in the area of Richmond Vale between Pelaw Main and Mulbring.

The fire has crossed Leggetts Drive and is spreading in an easterly direction. Leggetts Drive is closed in both directions.

A number of properties are under threat in the area round Leggetts Drive, Orchid Road, Whitebridge Road, Richmond Vale Road. Seek shelter if the fire impacts on your property and protect yourself from the heat of the fire.

Firefighters and aircraft are working to slow the spread of the fire and protect properties in the area. The tanker Thor is assisting firefighters.

Sugarloaf Conservation Area is closed.

3.15pm: Firefighters are throwing everything they've got at the Richmond Vale fire, as strong winds frustrate authorities and put residents on edge.

Already, dozens of residents have been evacuated from their properties, many deciding to leave if only for the unpredictability of this fire.

As one firefighter put it, "there's spot fires all over the place".

At Richmond Vale, water-bombing aircraft have attacked the blaze from above all day.  One of those helicopters landed on Lorraine Moss's property on Richmond Vale Road.

At first she refused to leave her two horses behind. When one of the horses crashed through the fence, stressed, it was the final straw.

Horses belonging to Lorraine Moss breaking through a fence after a helicopter landed in the paddock nearby on her Richmond Vale Road property. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Horses belonging to Lorraine Moss breaking through a fence after a helicopter landed in the paddock nearby on her Richmond Vale Road property. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

"We're here to evacuate you. You need to come with us now," one police officer said.

Ms Moss said she was waiting for a horse float. It never arrived.

Journalist Brodie Owen later spoke to residents who lived outside the fireground but had waded in to assist their neighbours.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," Tammy, who was helping out, said.

While houses along Richmond Vale Road are safe, with no reports of property or livestock loss, Leggetts Drive is a different story.

There, the Richmond Vale Railway Museum is counting the cost of the damage to items of industrial significance. The museum's chairman, Peter Meddows, was visibly upset.

He estimated damage to the museum's rolling stock, bridge and railway lines to be in the hundreds of thousands.

"When you see this, you get pissed off because it could have been avoided. That's what upsets you," Mr Meddows said, referring to reports that the blaze broke out after a car was set alight in nearby bush.

"We haven't seen it this bad since '94."

Other residents said the area is the driest it has been in as many 15 years.

2.50pm: The fire is now moving in an easterly direction towards the M1.

2.40pm: An emergency warning remains in place for a bush fire at Richmond Vale between Pelaw Main and Mulbring. The fire is out of control.

2.18pm: The fire ground had been split in two. The area around Tomalpin Link firetrail remains at emergency level. The fire around Orchid Road has been downgraded to advice level.

2.06pm: The fire has caused significant damage at the Richmond Vale Railway Museum.

The fire has destroyed at least one passenger carriage and some unrestored wagons.

Museum spokesperson Graham Smith said the number one bridge between the museum and the Hunter Economic Zone access road was also reportedly on fire, and that the blaze may have claimed a restored coal hopper.

He said an assessment of the site will be done as soon as possible.

2pm: There is still an Emergency Warning in place.

A number of properties are under threat in the area round Leggetts Drive, Orchid Road, Whitebridge Road, Richmond Vale Road. Seek shelter if the fire impacts on your property and protect yourself from the heat of the fire.

If you are in the area of Sheppeard Drive and your plan is to leave, leave now to the north if the path is clear.

People in the area of Stanford Merthyr should monitor conditions. If your plan is to leave, leave now away from the fire.

People in the area of West Wallsend and Edgeworth may experience smoke.

1.40pm: Mount Sugarloaf Road and Sugarloaf Range Road have been closed.

Based on advice from the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), the Richmond Vale fire currently burning has the potential to impact the Mount Sugarloaf area later this afternoon.

The fire has already burnt through 694 hectares.

1.25pm: Firefighters and aircraft are working to slow the spread of the fire and protect properties in the area.

1.11pm: A number of properties are under threat in the area round Leggetts Drive, Orchid Road, Whitebridge Road, Richmond Vale Road. Seek shelter if the fire impacts on your property and protect yourself from the heat of the fire.

If you are in the area of Sheppeard Drive and your plan is to leave, leave now to the north if the path is clear.

People in the area of Stanford Merthyr should monitor conditions. If your plan is to leave, leave now away from the fire.

People in the area of West Wallsend and Edgeworth may experience smoke.

Separately there is a fire burning at Browns Rd, Black Hill near rural properties west of M1.

12.50pm: Leave order for more residents. Head north.

Fire has also reportedly destroyed a rail carriage at the Richmond Vale Railway Museum.

12.40pm: The fire is burning in the area of Leggetts Drive at Richmond Vale between Pelaw Main and Mulbring.

The fire has crossed Leggetts Drive and is spreading in an easterly direction. Leggetts Drive is closed in both directions.

A number of properties are under threat in the area round Leggetts Drive, Orchid Road, Whitebridge Road, Richmond Vale Road, and Sheppeard Road.

Firefighters and aircraft are working to slow the spread of the fire and protect properties in the area.

12.30pm: About 20 workers from Kurri Fabs and Services are currently trapped at the business site on Leggetts Drive. All staff are safe and well, and emergency services believe the fire will bypass the site. A fire truck is ready on scene to defend the property if necessary.

“It is worrying that it is so early in the year, but hopefully it will mean it is not going to be such a threat later on,” worker Kristen Boyle said.

12.10pm: A number of properties are under threat in the area round Leggetts Drive, Orchid Road, Whitebridge Road and Richmond Vale Road.

Firefighters and aircraft are working to slow the spread of the fire and protect properties in the area.

The large air tanker Thor has been sent to assist firefighters.

Emergency Alert telephone warning messages are being sent to people in the area.

Advice: If the fire impacts on your property, seek shelter to protect yourself from the heat of the fire.

People in the area of Stanford Merthyr should monitor conditions. If your plan is to leave, leave now away from the fire.

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.

Midday: Pelaw Main resident Dianne Keygan raised the alarm on Wednesday.

She as putting the clothes on the line about 10am, when she saw smoke. She contacted emergency services and has been watching the blaze since then.

“It’s just gone,” she said.

“Believe you me it did not take long. It does make you worried, the wind could change, it’s not good at all.”

11.45am: Leggetts Drive between Whitebridge Road and Pelaw Main is closed in both directions.

Traffic is diverted through Cessnock via Lake Rd and Cessnock Rd.

The diversion is suitable for all vehicles. 

11.25am: The bush fire at Richmond Vale has been upgraded to an emergency level from watch and act. 

Emergency Alert telephone warning messages are being sent to people in the area.

If the fire impacts on your property, seek shelter to protect yourself from the heat of the fire.

People in the area of Stanford Merthyr should monitor conditions. If your plan is to leave, leave now away from the fire.

11am: A fire at Richmond Vale has been upgraded to a watch and act warning level. 

Rural Fire Service crews are fighting to contain the fire which has so far impacted 381ha around the Tomalpin Link Firetrail, south of Kurri Kurri. 

According to the RFS, the fire is burning on the western side of Leggetts Drive at Richmond Vale between Pelaw Main and Mulbring. The fire has broken containment lines and is burning in an easterly direction towards Leggetts Drive.

A number of properties may come under threat in the area round Leggetts Drive, Orchid Road, Whitebridge Road and Richmond Vale Road, according to the RFS.

Related content:

Firefighters and aircraft are working to slow the spread of the fire and protect properties in the area.

Multiple fires are burning around the Lower Hunter on Wednesday morning, with windy conditions set to worsen in the afternoon. 

Elsewhere, fires at Browns Road at Black Hill and Wallaroo are under control

Updates are available at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me.

This story Richmond Vale fire downgraded first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.