Bushfire Tennant Creek
A major bushfire continues to burn close to the NT outback town of Tennant Creek. Image by PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO
  • fire

Fresh crews and water bombers to battle outback blaze

Neve Brissenden September 14, 2023

Reinforcements are converging on a remote Northern Territory town as fatigued firefighters continue to fend off a major blaze.

South Australian water bombers and fire crews were due in Tennant Creek on Thursday morning to assist with containing the 10,000 sq km fire.

Incident controller Tony Fuller said the authorities were growing weary after the week-long effort.

“We’re really mindful about the fatigue of our staff and we’ve been rotating them through as much as possible,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“But they’re travelling pretty good. They’ve got blisters and sore backs from driving around in Land Cruisers, but they’re good.”

Mr Fuller said there were more than 90 different staff in the area from multiple NT agencies, including 13 of the 35 permanent Bushfire NT staff.

“That’s a massive commitment to this fire,” he said.

The Barkly Complex blaze has been burning for more than a week and inched closer to Tennant Creek’s 3000 residents on Wednesday when it broke a number of containment lines.

“There was a lot of aerial bombing, as well as some attempts with some machinery to get in front of it, but the fire is just running too fast,” Mr Fuller said.

“If we had another 150 people we still wouldn’t be able to be everywhere on that fire line.”

Winds of up to 50 km/h sent the mega-blaze speeding towards Tennant Creek on Wednesday evening, though evacuations remained unlikely in the town itself.

Police did clear an outstation, as the fire burnt to about 30 kms of the town.

At a community information session on Tuesday, residents raised concerns for family members living in remote areas and authorities vowed to follow them up.

Mr Fuller could not confirm on Wednesday whether those people had been warned about the ongoing threat.

The Barkly Highway has been intermittently closed since the blaze began last Wednesday and winds could also prompt the closure of the Stuart Highway.

The massive blaze marks the start of a long and worrying fire season in the NT, as heavy rains over the past two years created perfect fuel conditions.

More than 20 firefighters were also fighting a blaze in Gregory National Park, south of Darwin.