Kangaroo Island fires continue to burn uncontrolled, damage being assessed

6.30pm: Reports of homes and properties coming under threat on Coopers Road at Gosse this afternoon. Fire was in the front driveway and front paddocks of one property, while another house had a close call. The fire is also reportedly active at Middle River on the north coast this evening, having blackened the valley. Both fires remain at Watch and Act. Volunteer firefighters are returning home exhausted.

4.10pm: The Gum Creek Road fire at Menzies is still moving in a northerly direction towards the coast, and the fire behaviour is constantly changing due to high winds, changing fuel types and the hilly terrain it is burning in. Fire crews are working hard, trying to bring this fire under control by building control lines and working along the edge towards the head of the fire, but the conditions and terrain are not assisting the crews with their efforts. To ensure your safety, and that of firefighters and other emergency personnel who are working in the area, please do not enter the area unless necessary. Hazards may include reduced visibility due to smoke, fallen trees blocking roads and emergency vehicles operating in the area.

3pm: The CFS has now split the Kangaroo Island north coast fire complex into two fires, Menzies in the east and Duncan in the west, both still at Watch and Act. The areas burned have also been identified although not yet figure for the total area.

The CFS is now working on assessing the damage and getting residents back in so they can assess the damage themselves. The rugged nature of terrain is also challenging.

The CFS has now split the Kangaroo Island north coast fire complex into two fires, Menzies in the east and Duncan in the west.

The CFS has now split the Kangaroo Island north coast fire complex into two fires, Menzies in the east and Duncan in the west.

The Coopers Road fire is still moving in a northerly direction towards the coast. The fire behaviour is constantly changing due to high winds, changing fuel types and the hilly terrain it is burning in. Fire crews are working hard, trying to bring this fire under control but the conditions and terrain are not assisting the crews with there efforts.

The Duncan fire started at Coopers Road, Duncan, 56 kilometers west of Kingscote. The COOPERS ROAD, DUNCAN fire is uncontrolled. This scrub fire is burning in a northerly direction towards Seal Beach, Western River, Western River Cove, Pebbly Beach, Snelling Beach and Middle River. Conditions are continually changing.

The Menzies fire started at Gum Creek Road near Menzies, 21 kilometres west of Kingscote. The GUM CREEK ROAD, MENZIES fire is uncontrolled. This grass fire is burning in a North , North West direction towards Wisanger, Wisnager Hills, Smith Bay, Dashwood Bay and Emu Bay. Conditions are continually changing.

1.20pm: The fires are still moving in a northerly direction towards the coast, and the fire behaviour is constantly changing due to the scrub and hilly terrain it is burning in. Fire activity and intensity may increase as it moves through scrub land, when burning uphill or when there is an increase in wind speed.

12.30pm: Multiple fires on Kangaroo Island's north coast continue to burn uncontrolled and are expected to do so for days.

Damage is still being assessed but numerous properties were saved on the afternoon and evening of Friday, December 20 due to the efforts of local CFS brigades, farm fire units and water bombing aircraft.

Menzies complex of fires was downgraded to Watch and Act on Saturday morning. The GUM CREEK ROAD, MENZIES fire is uncontrolled. This stubble fire is burning in a This scrub fire is burning in a Northerly direction towards an area, between Cape Forbin and Emu Bay, including Snelling Beach, King George Beach, Stokes Bay, Hummocky Point, White Cliffs, Dashwood Bay, Smith Beach, Wisanger and Emu Bay township. Conditions are continually changing.

There were up to six active fires burning overnight and the CFS on Saturday morning was conducted aerial reconnaissance to determine the extent of the fire.

The fire was still evolving on Saturday morning with an aircraft spotting a grass fire on the Playford Highway at Parndana at 12.11pm. Additional resources from Kingscote sent out shortly thereafter.

A Level 2 Incident command post has been set up at Parndana but there is no word on road closures yet.

Additional strike teams also arrived on the SeaLink ferry on Saturday morning and CFS chief officer Mark Jones said the focus would be on the Coleman's and Cooper divisions at Gosse.

Menzies complex of fires was downgraded to Watch and Act on Saturday morning.

Menzies complex of fires was downgraded to Watch and Act on Saturday morning.

KI Mayor Michael Pengilly, a CFS volunteer and farmer on the north coast, was active on the fireground in his firefighting unit on Friday night and again on Saturday morning.

Mr Pengilly said the Menzies fire on the eastern boundary of the complex of fires had been contained to Rose Cottage Road, southwest of Smith Bay.

Firefighters were continuing to put out spot fire but conditions had eased and wind would push any fire activity toward the coast.

"If the weather stays like this I think we should be okay," he said.

Fires at the Middle River reservoir, Western River and De Mole River meanwhile continued to burn in thick bush in gully country.

"For far too long we have been overprotective of the bush and not had enough prescribed burns," Mr Pengilly said. "It's conservation gone mad."

There were also fires at Gosse in the Cooper's and Coleman divisions, burning in scrub and timber plantations, he said.

Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber (KPT) issued a trading halt on Friday due to the fires in its plantations.

In the Menzies fire to the east, sparked like the other at least eight fires by lightning, Graham and Kathy Barrett's place was saved but sheds and other parts of the farm were lost, Mr Pengilly said.

Similarly, Craig and Tracey Boxer's house was saved but the farm damaged and the mayor helped move out 800 sheep yesterday afternoon.

The Menzies fire was sparked just north of Kevin Freebairn's property and thankfully for him burned north away from his paddocks and sheep.

"Thankfully all good here, it started a few kilometres north of us and kept going north. Hopefully it's getting under control now with wind dropping and cooler weather," he said.

Tales of survival

There were remarkable tales of survival from the fire ground including at Western River Cove, where a resident and backpackers sheltered on the beach for hours as a fire raged down to the coast.

Western River Cove homestead resident Caroline Taylor posted on social media her ordeal during the fire.

While the homestead building had been saved as was the adjacent wool shed owned by the Chapman family. Nearby stockyards had been lost, she said.

On Saturday morning she was waiting at the command centre to see if she could get back in.

She said water bombing aircraft were still working on saving her neighbours' property on Sheridan Road.

Her other neighbour Gavin Solly had worked through the night looking after his and her property, while she also thanked Lee Watters, who had doused trees around the homestead on Saturday morning.

She and three international tourists, who just happened to be at the cove, fled to the beach at around 2.30pm as the fire, also sparked by lightning, approached.

The visitors, a couple from Spain and Germany and French person, had wanted to drive out after seeing the smoke but she directed them down to the beach.

When the fire reached its peak and she could not climb down the steep cliff where they were sheltering, she said she made it back to the house.

"Fire all around the house: inside garden. Hills both sides ablaze. Smoke everywhere. Too dangerous for spot watering but what do I do?" she posted online.

Later she was able to get word out that she and the homestead had been saved just time, paying credit to Kingscote CFS brigade captain Mike Swayne, who she said drove through fire to get to her.

"To all you lovely people who sent messages of concern and made me feel I was not alone: thank you so very much," she said.

"And to the hero fireman who braved horrendous conditions to come down and whisk me away in his truck - Michael Swayne - he was incredible. He saved me and the three backpackers."

Shockingly, she said she was unable to get through to 000 multiple times, and once she did get through, she was directed to the eastern states.

"I first fled to the beach around 2.30 but wasn't rescued until God knows what time at night so much longer than that! It just went on and on for hours but no response from dialing triple 0. Facebook friends were saviours!"

The fate of resident on Colemans Road off Snug Cove Road, at the western end of the fire complex at Gosse, who reported his house under attack from a fire raging in adjacent pine plantations was unknown until now.

Shauna Hammat reports that Colemans Road property was Duncan Correll's farm and the Colemans Road pine plantation directly across the road from his house where the family was sheltering from the fire.

At the height of the fire, Mr Correll's brother-in-law James Parsons posted: "Severe fire, Coleman's Road, KI .. Pine Forrest has gone up!.. and some property at Dunc's .. help needed! He's trying to save house!"

Shauna said with a short driveway, it was very close, but farm fire units were able to save his and a neighbour's house. "His neighbour has a house just about a half a km down in front of him, and they saved both houses."

There are also concerns held for other neighbours further down from Billy Goat Falls in a shed that live under the sugar gums.

Place of refuge

Meanwhile back in Kingscote, 56km west of the Menzies fire, the town's football oval is the designated bushfire safer place.

Kingscote Football Club opened the change rooms and showers for those evacuated, including campers without anywhere else to go.

Thomas Walter and his family from Munich Germany had been camped at Stokes Bay when the thunderstorms broke with lightning strikes all around.

They were directed to leave by the Rockpool Cafe operators who manage the campground and told to come into Kingscote.

Thomas and Sabina Kufner also from Munich were camping at Emu Bay when locals also told them to evacuate on Friday afternoon.

A group of backpackers from Europe in a Share Bus camper had been at Vivonne Bay campground and were also directed to leave by a ranger due to the Catastrophic fire conditions.

The international visitors said they were very grateful for the help of locals.

Locals and other visitors evacuated were staying with friends, family and generous accommodation owners after multiple offers of support came flooding in on local social media and the KI Questions, Notices and Discussion Facebook page.

"I am truly grateful for the generosity of kindness and care which the people of KI give to strangers. We went to your Christmas pageant and enjoyed every second of it! The atmosphere was joyful and of so much fun. It was great to see my kids do a scavenger hunt with others and then sharing laughter. Unfortunately we were also one of the families from Emu bay who found ourselves looking for alternative accommodation for the night. It was the kindness of Trudi Roberts-Bell who took complete strangers in to give us refuge for the night. Thank you so much for your kindness, we are truly grateful. This was filling our buckets over and over with kindness. You are one special person!!" - Ilse Renshaw

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