EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS: Reports of explosions, property damage
STANTHORPE residents watched in horror as the bushfire engulfed Mount Banca and crossed the New England Highway, coming dangerously close to property lines.
The sound of gas containers exploding could be heard from across the industrial estate, according to reports of residents who had gathered to watch the fire by the creekside.
When Samantha and Russell Wantling first drove into town to assess the damage they were unnerved by what they saw.
"It's eerie," Mrs Wantling said.
"The power is completely out in the main street and the fire is blazing over the mountain."
The couple say they saw fire licking at three or four homes on Britannia St and continue to move across Manning St.
The smoke is so thick it's difficult to breathe, according to Mrs Wantling.
"It's atrocious," she said.
"In the town itself it's so horrendous and thick."
The New England Highway is closed at the corner of Mackenzie St and police are directing traffic.
Those unable to move through town, such as the larger B-double trucks, are left stranded alongside the highway.
Mrs Wantling said the fire came incredibly close to the home of Warwick fire chief Dennis Burton but was able to be contained before it caused significant damage.
"It looks as though its dying down," she said.
"It seems to be getting under control."
Concerns were high for properties located on Mount Banca, according to Mr Wantling.
"That fire is going to keep travelling and there are houses up there," he said.
Mrs Wantling cautioned residents to heed warnings from emergency services personnel and commended them on how hard they'd been working.
"They're doing a great job," she said.
"There's no water and so much wind, and it's so close to town, but they seem to have it under control."
As the fire continues to blaze and warnings remain at emergency levels, the couple hopes the wind doesn't change directions.
"The Granite Belt can't catch a break right now, it really can't," Mrs Wantling said.