Watagans National Park partially reopens after bushfires and campfire scare

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff have reopened most of Watagans National Park after it was closed due to 2 wildfires burning through 329 hectares this month.

Abandoned campsite with smouldering bush behind

At least one of the fires was started by a campfire at Gap Creek Lookout, which remains closed along with burnt areas of the park and some trails, as staff and arborists undertake safety checks and work on fire-affected trees.

With dry conditions persisting, firefighters have been monitoring the area and using a drone to search the edge of the burn for smouldering logs or underground stumps that could flare up.

Both wildfires that burnt through part of the park started on total fire ban days, according to NPWS Team Leader Rangers Andrew Bayley.

'A campfire at Gap Creek Lookout started the Gap Creek fire, which grew to over 100 hectares, drawing significant resources including firefighters, fire appliances and water bombing helicopters to contain it,' Mr Bayley said.

'It was lit on the evening of Sunday 1 October, after the Rural Fire Service (RFS) issued a total fire ban for the area. NPWS also had a park fire ban over the long weekend, so there were 2 fire bans in place.'

When firefighters reached the fire’s source at the lookout they found belongings and camping gear.

'NPWS cleaned up camping gear, rubbish and a mattress left behind by campers – it looked like someone left in a hurry.

'It is dangerous and a serious offence to ignore total fire ban warnings. The RFS declares total fire bans on high-fire-risk days, which have factors such as high temperatures, strong winds and low air moisture.

'A total fire ban means no fires are to be lit in the open. These fires were close to the communities of Cooranbong and Martinsville and required a large amount of time and firefighting resources from both RFS and NPWS to control.'

Some road and trail closures remain in place on and near fire-affected areas so please check the alerts section for Watagans National Park on the NPWS website.

Gap Creek campground remains closed for visitor safety until fire-affected trees can be assessed. Partly burnt trees can be incredibly dangerous and fall without warning in the days and weeks after a bushfire. An arborist assessment and treatment is now occurring before those areas can reopen.

For up-to-date information on bushfires and planned hazard reduction activities, visit the Rural Fire Service website, Hazards Near Me app and the NPWS Alerts website.

NPWS would like to hear from anyone with information relating to this fire and can be contacted on (02) 4972 9000 or central.coast@environment.nsw.gov.au