A raging bushfire front was within minutes of reaching homes north of Hobart when a weather change helped avert devastation.
But despite a lack of injury and property damage on a day when fire danger reached catastrophic levels in Tasmania, a senior firefighter has described Tuesday’s experience as a “scary” start to what might lie ahead.
“What’s saving us is the paddocks are still a little bit green,” Tasmania Fire Service acting chief officer Gavin Freeman told reporters.
“The reports I’m getting is that the fires in the bush are running as if it is summer so once those paddocks cure off, if we don’t get rainfall between now and then, we’ve got some challenges in front of us.”
Twelve new fires started on Tuesday amid a total fire ban that covered most of the state, as temperatures peaked at a record 33.6C and wind gusts reached 80km/h.
Four hundred professional and volunteer firefighters worked across the state battling up to 30 blazes, but three caused most concern.
Between Tea Tree and Campania, rural areas about half-an-hours’ drive north of Hobart, residents were told to evacuate just after midday as flames were believed to be just 30 minutes from homes.
“Some great work in suppression operations by fire crews and the weather dropping off a little bit helped and the fire slowed down and we were able to prevent it from impacting on places,” Mr Freeman said.
Campania was one of the centres that reached extreme fire danger on Tuesday.
“That certainly caused some concerns for crews for a while with a lot of erratic fire behaviour under those strong winds,” the chief added.
“It is abnormal to have catastrophic ratings or even severe and extreme ratings at this time of the year, it is only October.”
In bushland close to Osterley in the Midlands a fire continues to burn out of control, having already raged through more than 2600 hectares.
The fire front was thought likely to reach homes by late afternoon but abating conditions have delayed the alert.
Near Orford on the east coast residents were reminded of nearby “safe places” where they could shelter from radiant heat if conditions worsened.
But late in the afternoon the 140-hectare blaze which started on Saturday had been brought under control.
Mr Freeman said despite the favourable outcome, Tuesday’s conditions were worrying and worse than expected.
“When you’re covered in smoke and ash and embers it can be a very scary moment and there was certainly plenty of that happening out there this afternoon.”
A front passing over Tasmania will bring more milder conditions for most of the state for the rest of the week, Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Alex Melitsis told AAP.
“There might even be a little flurry of snow … on (Hobart’s) Mt Wellington overnight,” he added.