SEVENTY firefighters have toiled throughout the night to protect the Port Macquarie airport as flames from the Lindfield Park Road fire reached the runway on August 19.
Eighteen crews from Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW Rural Fire Service battled the blaze after it was driven by strong winds towards the airport and Tuffins Lane.
The fire has been burning for more than a month aided by underground peat fires and inaccessible terrain, after starting on Lindfield Park Road on July 19.
Fire and Rescue NSW Port Macquarie station commander Gavin Muller said the bushfire now covers more than 320 hectares.
"From about midday yesterday through to late last night both FRNSW and NSWRFS worked quite hard on the fire in some trying conditions," Mr Muller said.
"We had strong winds and a lot of spot fires that were igniting both within the airport grassland area and externally around the ovals on Tuffins Lane.
"Crews did an exceptional job to get on top of it and extinguish them.
"There was about an hour and a half period where the airport was closed until the runway was clear of smoke and flames."
When conditions turned two weeks ago, the Large Air Tanker Marie Bashir was called in to water bomb the fire zone as a control measure.
The water drop was not designed to extinguish the blaze, but buy fire crews time to assess what needs to be done over the next few weeks to manage it in the event of no rain.
Mr Muller said firefighters worked hard to ensure no properties are currently under threat, however their efforts were being hindered by passing motorists.
"In these conditions we are asking everyone to understand it is an extreme drought factor at the moment and that the fire will run across even dry mowed areas when driven by the wind.
"Just to make sure residents are prepared, report any unattended fires that we see.
"Yesterday we had a huge number of people coming down and rubber-necking. They actually become quite hazardous to the firefighters on the road and our operations.
"Just coming down to have a look and choking up the road, vehicles couldn't get to where we needed to get them as quickly as we had liked.
"We just ask people to stay away if there is smoke around and just to shut your doors and windows.
"We are doing everything we can to extinguish it."
The cause and origin of the fire are currently under investigation.
"Today we expect the fire to push towards the Hastings River Drive area and along the back of the houses at Tuffins Lane," said Mr Muller.
"I think it's just a sign of what's to come in summer. If they haven't already, people should be seriously starting now to download a bushfire survival plan and working through it."
To stay up to date with the situation, please download the Fires Near Me App, or visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
Remember, now is the time to start thinking about preparing your property for the summer ahead. Go to www.myfireplan.com.au
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