Most of Watagans National Park in New South Wales has re-opened after it was closed due to extensive damage caused by two bushfires earlier this month – at least one of which was started by a campfire.
The blazes burned through 329 hectares of the park which lies an hour south-west of Newcastle.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) says one of the fires, at Gap Creek Lookout, was caused by a campfire. The lookout remains closed, along with burnt areas of the park and some trails.
“A campfire at Gap Creek Lookout started the Gap Creek fire, which grew to over 100 hectares, drawing significant resources including firefighters, fire appliances and water bombing helicopters to contain it,” said NPWS Team Leader Rangers, Andrew Bayley.
“NPWS cleaned up camping gear, rubbish and a mattress left behind by campers – it looked like someone left in a hurry.”
Both fires started on total fire ban days, and the NPWS is reminding campers that it is a is dangerous and a serious offence to ignore total fire ban warnings. The RFS declares total fire bans on high-fire-risk days, which have factors such as high temperatures, strong winds and low air moisture.
“A total fire ban means no fires are to be lit in the open,” said Mr Bayley. “These fires were close to the communities of Cooranbong and Martinsville and required a large amount of time and firefighting resources from both RFS and NPWS to control.”
Firefighters have been monitoring the area around the fires and using a drone to search the edge of the burn for smouldering logs or underground stumps that could flare up.
Gap Creek campground will remain closed for visitor safety until fire-affected trees can be assessed. The NPWS says partly burnt trees can be incredibly dangerous and fall without warning in the days and weeks after a bushfire. An arborist assessment and treatment is now occurring before those areas can reopen.
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