Firefighters battle blaze in Adelaide Hills as residents of Montacute advised to take shelter

Bushfire downgraded to ‘watch and act’ on Saturday afternoon as nine firebombers and spotter aircraft tried to contain the spread

Firefighters were battling a blaze in steep terrain in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia on Saturday that threatened the small town of Montacute.

About 59 firetrucks were on the ground by Saturday afternoon, with six firebombers and other spotter aircraft trying to control the fire.

The blaze, visible from the Adelaide suburbs, was reported to have grown rapidly from just five to 20 hectares in about 10 minutes.

Pictures and footage shared on social media showed aircraft darting through thick black smoke to try to contain the fire, first reported at 11.30am.

At 1.38pm on Saturday, the South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) issued a request for people in Montacute and the surrounding area near Athelstone in the Mount Lofty Ranges to leave the area.

An out-of-control bushfire is burning at Montacute in the Adelaide Hills. The CFS says it is too late to leave the area and to take shelter. Details in 7NEWS Adelaide at 5pm and 6pm | #7NEWS

— 7NEWS Adelaide (@7NewsAdelaide) January 14, 2023

The warning for people in Montacute said: “Conditions are dangerous and firefighters are now unable to prevent the fire spreading. Shelter before the fire arrives as heat can kill you well before the flames reach you.”

The CFS said the fire was burning freely in “steep inaccessible terrain” inside the nearby Black Hill conservation park.

A CFS spokesperson told the Guardian on Saturday afternoon the official warning had been downgraded to “watch and act” as there were no immediate risks to buildings.

She said: “There are no assets in direct danger. But we will be working on this fire overnight. It is not contained and is still going.

“We have 59 appliances [firetrucks] there, but it is inaccessible on foot so we have the six bombers out and more air support that is giving us a massive advantage.”

The fire was covering 45 hectares, but a wind change expected in the late afternoon might see the fire blow back onto itself.

Looks to be just over the other side of the hill; amazing work as always by the CFS and pilots #bushfire #athelstone

— BBPatz (@BBPatz007) January 14, 2023

According to the 2021 census, Montacute has 332 residents. Police and the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service were also on the scene. Two local roads were closed.

Listener Gino at Highbury has shared his view near the Montacute fire.

Let us know where you are and what you can see by calling 8223 0000.

— FIVEaa (@1395FIVEaa) January 14, 2023

On Friday, the CFS issued a total fire ban for Saturday for several areas in South Australia, including the Mount Lofty Ranges, saying the weather conditions meant the risk of fire was extreme.

Observations from Bureau of Meteorology weather stations showed temperatures reaching 33C at Mount Lofty on Saturday afternoon, with winds gusting to 39km/h.


Graham Readfearn

The GuardianTramp

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