Darkes Forest residents breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as fire crews contained a formidable blaze above Bulli Tops which consumed 1600 hectares of bush and gave them a taste of what summer may have in store.
Wild winds fuelled the flames, forcing the closure of the F6 on Friday night and keeping residents in the area on tenterhooks.
Louise Murray said she saw the threatening bushfire when it was just a small blaze, flickering to life near Panorama House about 1pm on Friday.
As she waited for the fire brigade, she attempted to stamp out the embers, but the wind had other plans for them.
Within four hours, the fire had exploded into an inferno, consuming about 200 hectares of bush and scrub. It had also come alarmingly close to the homes of the Murrays and their neighbours on Darkes Forest Road.
Louise and her mother Leonie watched as the flames grew higher than their property’s towering pine tree.
‘‘The flames were probably 40 or 50 metres in the air,’’ Leonie Murray said.
‘‘It whooshed up the side of our property and we nearly lost our shed.
‘‘We’re one of the lucky ones, we’ve actually got a lot of clearings on our place, so we didn’t feel too threatened.
‘‘I could see it heading across to my neighbour’s house,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s gone now, thank goodness. Had it been summer it might have been a different story.’’
Mrs Murray’s husband Peter and her son Ross, 20, are among 120 Rural Fire Service volunteers and NSW Fire and Rescue officers who had been battling the blaze since Friday.
It was finally contained about 2am yesterday but not before it consumed 1600 hectares of scrub and bushland and gave residents of Darkes Forest a huge scare.
The fire came within a few kilometres of the Darkes Forest Riding Ranch, prompting owner Robin Read to move her horses into an area with a secure water supply, and to launch other fire procedures.
‘‘We take the rugs off the horses so they don’t catch fire,’’ she said.
‘‘All the hoses are ready, the tanks are ready, the generator’s ready - everything’s in place.
‘‘We’ve got to fight it with whoever’s here.
‘‘Over the last 30 years we’ve been through three of them [bushfires], so you put into practice the procedures you know.
‘‘Everyone pulls together in this situation,’’ Ms Read added.
Faced with boggy, inaccessible terrain, firefighters used backburning to limit the fire and dispatched several firefighting units to protect five or six isolated homes in the area.
The F6 was closed in both directions between Helensburgh and Bulli Tops on Friday night and reopened about 9.35am on Saturday.
There was no immediate threat to properties in the area yesterday, but the Rural Fire Service urged people to ‘‘continue to monitor the situation’’.