A major fire threat has eased north of Gunnedah but authorities are warning communities to be vigilant during the summer holiday season.

More than 17mm of rain in 24 hours to 9am Wednesday helped quell the Duck Creek Pilliga Forest fire burning west of Boggabri.

The bushfire had burnt through more than 129,000 hectares after being downgraded from emergency level to advice on Tuesday evening.

Residents in the Baan Baa, Willala, Goolhi and Rocky Glen areas had earlier been told their life was at risk, that it was too late to leave and to shelter in place.

Evacuation centres were set up in Gunnedah and Narrabri to assist those who had left their homes early.

Firefighting crews were able to utilise more favourable weather to identify containment lines and extinguish the fire as it exited the Pilliga Forest and entered farmland.

Hundreds of emergency service personnel from across the Gunnedah region and the state joined the firefighting effort this week.

It included Australia’s largest firefighting aircraft – the CH-47 Chinook – which touched down at Gunnedah Airport on Monday to support crews on the ground.

Pilot Jason Huenergardt from Coulson Aviation was one of four air crew and engineers who arrived in the advance party with the Chinook. More aircraft support personnel were due to arrive by road.

The team just returned from fires in Glen Innes and Cessnock before being called to Gunnedah for the Pilliga fire.

Mr Huenergardt said the Chinook’s water bucket aircraft can carry up to 2600 gallons of water, equivalent to about 10,000 litres, at one time and requires a depth of just two feet to fill up.

Meanwhile, Gunnedah PCYC on View Street hosted one of two evacuation centres for those affected by the bushfire.

The centre was able to provide immediate emergency assistance such as accommodation and other essential needs.

Centre staff said they had been approached by local branches of the Country Women’s Association and the Salvation Army, offering what help they could.

Gunnedah resident Mark Herbert also stopped by the evacuation centre to offer his support.

“I thought I’d pop my head in just in case they needed help,” he said.

Mr Herbert has been a long-time volunteer during times of emergency. He recalled volunteering his help during bushfires in Sydney some years ago, helping packing hampers for those in need.

Although the Pilliga fire threat had eased, the Newell Highway was on Wednesday morning still closed between Narrabri and Coonabarrabran.

Firefighters were concentrating efforts to ensure the road was safe to be opened to traffic as soon as possible.

The National Council for Fire and Emergency Services seasonal bushfire outlook published late last month said abundant vegetation growth supported by previous La Niña rainfall will continue to dry throughout summer, increasing the flammability of fuel loads.

Its chief executive Rob Webb said an increased risk of bushfire made it even more important for people to take action.

“Wherever you live, work or visit this summer, know where to find bushfire information, prepare your property, and talk to your family and friends about what you will do in an emergency,” he said.

For the latest fire updates, visit rfs.nsw.gov.au

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