A back burning operation at Wyee yesterday raged out of control around 2:30pm, it is reported an unexpected sea breeze fueled the flames near the M1 Pacific Motorway (F3 Freeway) at Wyee.
The fire increased it’s intensity as winds picked up, crossing from the eastern side of Mandalong Road, leaping the Southbound carriageway, onto the median strip then over to the western side of the motorway. Motorists reported fire on both sides of the carriageway and day turned to night as plumes of smoke and fire surrounded vehicles.
The Channel Nine helicopter captured scenes of panicked drivers as they used U-Turn bays to get away from the inferno. Large trucks who could no longer proceed began reversing down the Motorway back to the Doyalson Interchange to continue their journey and some cars continued driving through the smoke cloud risking their safety.
The RMS and Police closed the motorway shortly after, including Wyee Road.
Drivers heard reports on commercial radio stating that the Motorway had reopened, truck drivers who heard these reports disobeyed RMS directions to exit at Doyalson and parked their trucks on the motorway waiting for it to reopenwhich lead to a large number of trucks obstructing traffic.
A hazard reduction burn was in progress in the area but the RFS Deputy Commissioner did not confirm if this caused the fire. He said it was reasonable to assume that it did, he said he he will need to investigate. It’s possible an unexpected sea breeze pushed the fire further than expected he said.
The ordeal continued into the peak period as queues of traffic began to grow, traffic delay was over 70 minutes at one stage and the queue of cars peaked at 8kms.
Shortly after they reopened the road another fire flared up in the Southbound lane slowing traffic again however this was quickly extinguished and traffic returned to normal around 6:30pm.
At 1:30am the following day the RFS resumed their back burning operation in the same location.
The m1traffic.com.au website received a record number of visitors as motorists and worried family members searched the Internet for answers. Along side our automatic traffic delay alerting system our staff aggregated all available information on the incident from the RMS, RFS, Fire NSW, Police, Motorists and pictures from the Nine News helicopter.
Media outlets such as Nine News, Ten News, Newcastle Herald, ABC Local News, 1233 ABC Newcastle and local councils Gosford City Council, Wyong Shire Council were kept up-to-date with our rolling coverage on social media and many used this information in their broadcasts and publications.
We will provide rolling coverage and aggregate all available information on our social media feed whenever a major event breaks on the M1 Pacific Motorway.