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Firefighters are throwing everything they've got at the Richmond Vale fire, as strong winds frustrate authorities and put residents on edge.
Already, dozens of residents have been evacuated from their properties, many deciding to leave if only for the unpredictability of this fire.
As one firefighter put it, "there's spot fires all over the place".
At Richmond Vale, water-bombing aircraft have attacked the blaze from above all day. One of those helicopters landed on Lorraine Moss's property on Richmond Vale Road.
At first she refused to leave her two horses behind. When one of the horses crashed through the fence, stressed, it was the final straw.
Horses belonging to Lorraine Moss breaking through a fence after a helicopter landed in the paddock nearby on her Richmond Vale Road property. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
"We're here to evacuate you. You need to come with us now," one police officer said.
Ms Moss said she was waiting for a horse float. It never arrived.
Journalist Brodie Owen later spoke to residents who lived outside the fireground but had waded in to assist their neighbours.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," Tammy, who was helping out, said.
While houses along Richmond Vale Road are safe, with no reports of property or livestock loss, Leggetts Drive is a different story.
There, the Richmond Vale Railway Museum is counting the cost of the damage to items of industrial significance. The museum's chairman, Peter Meddows, was visibly upset.
He estimated damage to the museum's rolling stock, bridge and railway lines to be in the hundreds of thousands.
"When you see this, you get pissed off because it could have been avoided. That's what upsets you," Mr Meddows said, referring to reports that the blaze broke out after a car was set alight in nearby bush.
"We haven't seen it this bad since '94."
Other residents said the area is the driest it has been in as many 15 years.
2.50pm: The fire is now moving in an easterly direction towards the M1.
An emergency warning remains in place for a bush fire at Richmond Vale between Pelaw Main and Mulbring. The fire is out of control.
2.18pm: The fire ground had been split in two. The area around Tomalpin Link firetrail remains at emergency level. The fire around Orchid Road has been downgraded to advice level.
2.06pm: The fire has caused significant damage at the Richmond Vale Railway Museum.
The fire has destroyed at least one passenger carriage and some unrestored wagons.
Museum spokesperson Graham Smith said the number one bridge between the museum and the Hunter Economic Zone access road was also reportedly on fire, and that the blaze may have claimed a restored coal hopper.
He said an assessment of the site will be done as soon as possible.
2pm: There is still an Emergency Warning in place.
A number of properties are under threat in the area round Leggetts Drive, Orchid Road, Whitebridge Road, Richmond Vale Road. Seek shelter if the fire impacts on your property and protect yourself from the heat of the fire.
If you are in the area of Sheppeard Drive and your plan is to leave, leave now to the north if the path is clear.
People in the area of Stanford Merthyr should monitor conditions. If your plan is to leave, leave now away from the fire.
People in the area of West Wallsend and Edgeworth may experience smoke.
1.40pm: Mount Sugarloaf Road and Sugarloaf Range Road have been closed.
Based on advice from the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), the Richmond Vale fire currently burning has the potential to impact the Mount Sugarloaf area later this afternoon.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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