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Fire conditions ease, TDU set to go ahead

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Five fires continue to burn in South Australia as conditions ease, enabling firefighters to get some much needed rest.

In other good news, the Tour Down Under’s first stage, from Nuriootpa to Angaston in the Barossa, is likely to go ahead as planned tomorrow.

Organisers were concerned that fires burning in the Barossa would mean a change to the leg.

Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur admits the event has dodged a bullet after confirmation stage one would go ahead as planned.

There were fears that the opening stage of the men’s Tour on Tuesday and the second round of the women’s Santos Cup on Monday might have to be cancelled because of the state bushfire crisis.

The two races are in the Barossa region and will finish at Angaston.

A nearby bushfire had race organisers concerned over the weekend, particularly because of shifting wind conditions.

But the fire is now contained and there will be no change to the Tour schedule.

“We’ve had a pretty good run over 16 years, but thankfully we’ve got away with this one, by the looks of things,” Turtur said.

“(After) the extreme weather of last week, we’ve been blessed with conditions for the whole race, it’s looking terrific.

“We can thank our lucky stars.”

The Tour Down Under has never had a stage cancellation or last-minute course change since it started in 1999.

Turtur added smoke from the bushfire would not affect the riders.

“Our belief is that the air in and around the race circuit is pretty-well clear, so it shouldn’t be an issue,” he said.

The race will have plans in place in case the fire flares again.

“We’ll deal with that if and when it happens – we have certain procedures in place,” Turtur said.

“We will monitor the thing as we go.”

Some riders expressed reservations about racing in the region so soon after the fire disaster.

But Turtur said the Barossa community wanted the racing to continue as planned.

“I make it clear that our first thought about our activity with the Tour was based on the welfare of the community in the region,” he said.

“The race always came second.

“We feel deeply for the people who have had property loss and damage.

“We hope by coming into the region tomorrow that we bring a boost”

Only the Bangor fire in the Southern Flinders Ranges remains subject to a watch and act alert.

The CFS says the reduction in fire activity enables crews to continue to strengthen control lines, extinguish hot spots and patrol the fire grounds.

At least 15 houses were lost in the blazes across the state over the weekend, but no fires are currently threatening lives or property.

The CFS says fire activity has significantly slowed at Bangor, but there are still areas with active flames and locals should continue to have their bushfire action plan activated.

Other continuing blazes include a fire in the Eden Valley and in the Billiatt Conservation Park.

“We still have over 330 personnel and five aircraft assisting with these fires from interstate fire agencies,” a CFS spokesman said.

“This has boosted our firefighting and incident management capabilities as well as allowing some personnel to get some much needed rest.”

More than 445,000 hectares of grass, scrub, forest and bushlands has been burnt since fires started last Tuesday.

Regional commander John Hutchins said crews were already physically and emotionally drained.

“A leader of the volunteers rang me up crying, because he’d lost houses,” he told ABC Radio.

The Bureau of Meteorology says there is the possibility of rain on Friday.

– with AAP

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