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Bushfire alert for Tas town downgraded to watch and act

An emergency warning for a bushfire threatening a coastal Tasmanian town has been downgraded to a watch and act.

Tasmania Fire Service says the blaze at St Helens-Stonyford Track on Saturday afternoon put the area at high risk.

“This fire will be difficult to control,” they said.

“There may be embers, smoke and ash falling on St Helens-Stonyford Track and Heritage Road.”

Three water bombers and 12 tankers are part of the effort to tackle the fire.

The Bureau of Meteorology said winds reached up to 50km/h earlier in the day and there was an 80 per cent chance of rain this evening.

Break O’Day Mayor Mick Tucker said the winds had been strong enough to “blow a dog off a chain” but had started to ease, giving firefighters an opportunity to get a stranglehold on the blaze before nightfall.

He said the area had endured too many bushfires in recent years, so the community was on edge but many people had chosen to stay at their properties and try to defend them if necessary.

Residents had been advised to evacuate to St Helens Football Club, which many had heeded.

Mr Tucker said all mountain bike riders had been evacuated from trails – the first time the town has had to do that – and it was a “flawless” exercise.

“Everything went perfectly,” he told NCA NewsWire.

Deputy mayor John McGiveron said it appeared the fire, which was first reported on Tuesday, started as a fuel reduction burn at Launceston Creek then jumped containment lines.

The Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management was sought for comment.

Smoke is thick across Georges Bay.

“It looked fairly ominous a few hours ago,” Mr McGiveron said.

What to do:

* You need to start taking action now to protect your family and your home

* If you are not prepared for a bushfire, be ready to leave for a safer place

* If you don’t live near St Helens-Stonyford Track and Heritage Road, stay away

* If your family have made a bushfire survival plan, use it now

* Keep updated by listening to ABC Local Radio or look at the TFS website at www.fire.tas.gov.au.

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