Duo’s end in in­ferno

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - MITCHELL VAN HOMRIGH & JANET FIFE-YEOMANS

A COU­PLE mar­ried for just three years per­ished side-by­side in their home in the fe­ro­cious fires which ripped across north­ern NSW on Tues­day.

Well-known farmer Gwen Hyde, 68, and re­tired ser­vice sta­tion owner Bob Lind­say, 77, died at their iso­lated Dead­man Creek Rd house at Coong­bar, which backed on to Key­barbin State For­est.

THE el­derly cou­ple who per­ished side-by-side in the de­vas­tat­ing bush blazes still rip­ping through north­ern NSW had just mar­ried three years ago af­ter fall­ing in love late in life.

The worst fears of emer­gency ser­vices work­ers bat­tling the bush­fires were re­alised last night when it was re­vealed that well-known lo­cal farmer Gwen Hyde, 68, and re­tired ser­vice sta­tion owner Bob Lind­say, 77, died at their iso­lated Dead­man Creek Rd house at Coong­bar, which backed on to Key­barbin State For­est.

The tragedy was dis­cov­ered when po­lice were asked by the cou­ple’s fran­tic chil­dren from their ear­lier mar­riages to check on their wel­fare.

Neigh­bours said the Long Gully Road fire had “roared: through when the east­erly winds picked up on Tues­day af­ter­noon. The fire had been burn­ing since a light­ning strike on September 5 and joined up with the Bus­bys Road blaze that po­lice be­lieve was de­lib­er­ately started on Fri­day.

A close friend, Carol Dil­lon, said she didn’t think the pair would have stood a chance.

“I’m hop­ing it was very quick,” Ms Dil­lon said.

Mr Lind­say used to own Casino’s Lib­erty Ser­vice Sta­tion where he fa­mously used a broom han­dle to scare off a ma­chete-wield­ing thug seven years ago.

He mar­ried Ms Hyde at Casino court­house af­ter her pre­vi­ous hus­band Archie lost his bat­tle with de­men­tia.

“It was a lovely wed­ding, a quiet one,” Ms Dil­lon said.

“Ev­ery­one was pleased they got to­gether.”

RFS com­mis­sioner Shane Fitzsim­mons said some of the cou­ple’s live­stock also died.

“The prop­erty af­fected was sig­nif­i­cantly damaged. Lots of de­struc­tion,” he said. “The dam­age is ex­ten­sive and yes they had an­i­mals, they had pets and some hadn’t sur­vived and they all will need to be tended to like so many oth­ers.”

To­gether the re­lent­less in­fer­nos have de­stroyed around 50 struc­tures — in­clud­ing about 30 homes — as it was re­vealed hard­ened lo­cals from nearby Ewingar were forced to fight walls of flames by hand-crank­ing makeshift fire trucks made from wa­ter tanks.

The fire has burned through more than 70,000 hectares since Tues­day. Fam­i­lies who es­caped the fire sought safety at Ewingar Com­mu­nity Hall yes­ter­day as RFS mem­bers con­verted it into a makeshift sta­tion and he­li­pad.

Ruth Har­ri­man, 68, told The Daily Tele­graph she would have lost her home of

40 years if she did not have her home­made fire truck.

“It’s just a wa­ter tank on the back of a ute with a spray noz­zle — we got it for about $500.

She was trapped, alone, fight­ing the fire for about an hour as her part­ner, Paul Abort­ing, 56, was on duty bat­tling flames with the RFS.

Her 9000-litre tank quickly burnt, along with an­other smaller 1000-litre tank leav­ing her with only 1600 litres to de­fend her en­tire prop­erty.

“I couldn’t have fought the fire any longer than I did, I had run out of wa­ter,” she said.

She said she was grate­ful for her neigh­bour Frank who let her fill up her tank on Tues­day morn­ing, just five hours be­fore the blaze en­gulfed her land.

As she fin­ished fight­ing off the fires around 4pm, less than a kilo­me­tre away, Ewingar lo­cal Al­lan High­field just started his own ter­ri­fy­ing or­deal.

“I had ini­tially evac­u­ated when I first heard about the fires. I was at the com­mu­nity hall, which is close to my house, and I was putting out spot fires there,” he said.

“I had thought my house was gone, I could see all the flames over the back of my way and it was 10 to 15-me­tre high walls of fire. Then a mate of mine, Gary, came to the hall on a quad­bike with a wa­ter tank on the back. He asked if I wanted to see my place.”

The pair jumped onto the back of Gary’s quad bike and drove to Al­lan’s home, where the fire was al­ready lick­ing at the base of the tim­ber cot­tage.

Al­lan be­gan to use the hoses hooked up to his tanks but the rub­ber pipes quickly burnt leav­ing him to use a bucket to throw wa­ter at the fire.

From 4pm un­til mid­night on Tues­day the pair raced around the prop­erty try­ing to pro­tect his home.

“There were times when I thought I would not make it out alive,” he said.

Mar­ried cou­ple Gwen Hyde and Bob Lind­say, who per­ished in Tues­day’s in­ferno.

Ruth Har­ri­man at the ru­ins of her prop­erty and (in­sets) the RFS mounts aerial at­tacks on the fires. Pic­tures: Dy­lan Robin­son

An empty wa­ter tank in Ewingar.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.