Threat to Sussex Inlet eases: RFS

*WITH VIDEO: Fire aftermath

*WITH AUDIO: How the day unfolded for residents

*GALLERY: Australia's bushfires

AUTHORITIES have downgraded a fire which threatened Sussex Inlet last night and have reopened the Princes Highway at Wandandian.

The fire is still burning to the south of Sussex Inlet road.

As of 9am this morning, firefighters said the blaze had a perimeter of 44 kilometres and had burnt 3800 hectares of bush. Crews were working to strengthen containment lines.

Evacuation centres closed at 1pm.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott is one of dozens of volunteer firefighters on bushfire watch in Nowra.

Mr Abbott has delayed his annual holiday and will for the next three days join the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade in the city.

Mr Abbott has been a volunteer with his local brigade since 2000 and served as its deputy captain before becoming opposition leader in 2009.

Warren Truss will serve as acting leader of the opposition while Mr Abbott is in the region.

Almost 750 residents crowded themselves into an evacuation centre at Sussex Inlet RSL Club last night as they waited for the worst of the fire situation to pass.

Those in the outer suburbs no longer under threat were given the news about 12.30am that it was safe to return home.

But around 80 people still stayed at the centre overnight, RSL club supervisor Jason Kemp said.

Families and residents of an aged care facility were among the group of evacuees who were provided with meals and drinks throughout the night.

Some of them came prepared with pillows and blankets.

But they weren't the only visitors  Mr Kemp said, with dogs, cats and even chickens arriving with their owners for a temporary stay. 

Mr Kemp thanked Red Cross, Salvation Army, Anglicare, Marine Rescue, Council Rangers, RSPA, paramedics, police and firefighters who assisted in the evacuation efforts.

"I guess it does bring the community together, everyone lends a hand no matter what," he said.

Sussex Inlet road remains closed, as does Braidwood Road, Turpentine Road, Wandean Road and Twelve Mile Road.

Late last night, a NSW RFS spokesman said the out of control bushfire had been moving west to east throughout the afternoon and could have been pushed north by forecast southerly winds, putting both towns at serious risk.

The situation appears to have eased and an evacuation of Sussex Inlet is not currently planned, the RFS said.

The fire destroyed 1500 hectares by late yesterday afternoon. It crossed the Princes Hwy at about 9.30pm.

RFS and Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters were strategically deployed along the Sussex Inlet Road protecting properties.

Sussex Inlet remains isolated, with roads in and out of the town cut yesterday. 

"The southerly change has brought cooler conditions, however, the threat to property will remain," the RFS said in a statement.

Sussex Inlet Bowling Club and Sussex Inlet RSL club are designated evacuation zones.

Some 500 people were sheltering at the RSL club last night.

Read vital RFS information about this fire here.

Further updates on this fire, Bush Fire Survival Plans, details of Neighbourhood Safer Places and the latest reports can be found on the NSW RFS webpage www.rfs.nsw.gov.au or by calling call 1800 NSW RFS (1800 679 737).

The story Threat to Sussex Inlet eases: RFS first appeared on South Coast Register.

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