Two houses are among more than a dozen buildings confirmed destroyed in the Cherry Gardens bushfire, as investigations continue into whether the blaze was deliberately lit.

Key points:

  • The CFS says Major Crime investigators are helping to determine a likely cause
  • Multiple ignition points have been identified
  • More than 2,500 hectares have been blackened in the blaze

An emergency warning for the fire in the Adelaide Hills was earlier downgraded to watch and act status — but that has now been further downgraded to advice level.

The advice message applies to areas including Longwood, Mylor, Biggs Flat, Scott Creek, Chapel Hill, Cherry Gardens and Mount Bold.

The Country Fire Service (CFS) has urged residents to “stay alert, monitor local conditions and decide what you will do if the situation changes”.

The CFS said damage assessment teams had so far identified two houses and 17 outbuildings among structures that had been destroyed.

Another two outbuildings were damaged, while two vehicles were destroyed — but the CFS said 60 houses inside the bushfire area had been saved.

A CFS truck on Mount Bold Road at Bradbury amid the Cherry Gardens fire overnight.(Supplied: CFS Promotions Unit)

The large blaze, which formed when several smaller fires amalgamated, is continuing to burn and the CFS says variable wind conditions could cause flames to change direction unexpectedly.

Incident controller Scott Turner said crews were aiming to have the blaze within control lines by 8:00pm on Tuesday.

Samra Teague captured this photo of the Cherry Gardens bushfire from near Willunga.(Supplied: Samra Teague)

While rain is causing conditions to ease, it is proving a mixed blessing.

“This will stop us putting in much needed burning out operations tonight,” Mr Turner said.

“Once the rain abates and the moisture dries out a bit in the next 24 hours, we will commence burning operations on the northern area.”

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Buildings destroyed by fire in the Adelaide Hills.

More than 2,500 hectares of land have already been burnt in the fire, which has a perimeter stretching 28 kilometres.

About 300 firefighters and 50 fire trucks are on the fireground in steep terrain.

Suspicion about fire cause

Firefighters today quickly contained a “couple of small outbreaks” on the northern flank, and Mr Turner said SA Police’s Major Crime unit was now working alongside CFS investigators to determine the likely cause.

“The Cherry Gardens fire — we had a number of ignition sites there,” he said.

Police at a roadblock on Cherry Gardens Road.(ABC News: Sara Tomevska)

CFS state duty commander Yvette Dowling said it was a concern if the fire was found to have been deliberately lit.

“From an emergency services viewpoint it’s a … concern that while we’ve got crews out fighting fires, there could be someone lighting them up.”

A Hallett Cove man was earlier charged with causing a separate but nearby fire, after police allegedly caught him leaving the scene.

Police said that fire at Clarendon had just started when patrols spotted the man speeding away from the scene in his car on Piggott Range Road about 6:00pm.

He has been charged with causing a bushfire, driving unlicensed, engaging in a police pursuit, drink driving, and defacing number plates.

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Flames and smoke rise above the Adelaide Hills.

Health warning about smoke

Smoke earlier blanketed the Adelaide metropolitan area, which the CFS said was all from the Cherry Gardens fire.


SA Health said the smoke could pose a serious threat to health, particularly for vulnerable people with lung or heart conditions.

“We are urging people to stay indoors where possible, avoid physical exercise outdoors and reduce their exposure to smoky air,” Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Emily Kirkpatrick said.

“People should keep windows and doors shut, and ventilate the house once the smoke clears.”

People with asthma and other respiratory conditions should follow their action plans, she said.

The mercury stayed above 24 degrees Celsius overnight in Adelaide after a top of 43C yesterday.

Horses and sheep sheltering at Mount Barker during the fire.(ABC News: David Frearson)

The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting rain and a possible thunderstorm in Adelaide this afternoon, when a wind change is also expected to come through.

Between 5 and 15 millimetres of rain are expected in Adelaide.

The South Eastern Freeway is open to all traffic but there are road closures across a large area around the fire.

Some onlookers likened the Cherry Gardens bushfire plume to a volcano.(Supplied: Samra Teague)

Premier praises volunteers

Premier Steven Marshall said the various State Government agencies involved had worked well together.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had offered federal assistance in a call with the Premier.

“None is required at this stage and so we just look forward to a day in Adelaide where they are able to get on top of that and everybody can remain safe,” Mr Morrison said.

“It was a very positive report from the Premier and we wish them all the best today and we thank all of those volunteer firefighters.”