Homes lost as 100 fires rage
The NSW Rural Fire Service has warned that more homes will be lost this weekend, with almost 100 blazes ravaging the state.
Exhausted firefighters were battling 99 separate blazes across NSW’s mid-north coast and northern reaches on Friday night, and as many as 20 houses had already been destroyed.
The RFS said it had received multiple reports of people trapped in their homes at several points across the region but fire crews had been unable to reach them due to the intensity of the inferno.
Bobin, southwest of Port Macquarie, was one of the hardest hit towns so far. It is understood the town public school was destroyed along with as many as 14 homes.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has warned that more homes will be lost at the weekend, with almost 100 blazes continuing to ravage the state.
Exhausted firefighters were battling 99 separate blazes across NSW’s mid-north coast and northern reaches on Friday night, and as many as 20 houses had been destroyed.
The RFS said it had received multiple reports of people trapped in their homes at several points across the region but fire crews had been unable to reach them because of the intensity of the fires.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the state was in “uncharted territory” and more than 1000 firefighters had already been deployed on Friday “to save as many people as possible”.
“It’s very volatile and it’s a very dangerous set of circumstances that we are experiencing,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“We have reports of multiple buildings and facilities being destroyed or damaged. There’s 370,000ha of fire right now burning in NSW, which is more than the entire area burnt last year.”
Bobin, southwest of Port Macquarie, was one of the hardest hit towns. It is understood its public school was destroyed along with as many as 14 homes.
A further two homes were lost in the Coraki area on the far-north coast, leaving a resident and a firefighter in hospital with smoke inhalation.
At the height of the crisis, 17 fires were burning out of control, ranging from the Blue Mountains to Tenterfield, south of the Queensland border.
“We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level,” Mr Fitzsimmons said. He said drought conditions meant there was a high fuel load and strong winds were causing embers to spot up to 12km ahead of the firefronts.
“Those embers are landing in very dry, highly flammable vegetation and starting new fires very, very easily … so you get this exponential growth of the firefront and acceleration of the firefront moving across the landscape,” he said.
There were mass evacuations in Port Macquarie, Forster and
Taree as the flames encroached on residential areas. Mid Coast Council Mayor David West described the widespread carnage as “horrifying and horrendous” and praised the firefighters battling the blaze.
He said his daughter and her two children had fled to his house on Friday night after fire came within 300m of their home in Forster — and they were now on standby in case they needed to evacuate his home too, with his farm within 4km of a fire burning at Lansdowne.
“I’ve never felt a sense of anguish that I do now, the fear for my community … It’s literally a wall of yellow, horrible, beastly, tormenting flames,” he said.
In Queensland, emergency warnings were in place for three fires, while a total of 40 blazes burned across the state.
Residents were told to evacuate after a bushfire southwest of
Brisbane in the Lockyer Valley split in two.
The two “large and unpredictable” fires were burning near Thornton, south of Laidley on Friday afternoon.
Residents of Clumber and Moogerah, west of the Gold Coast, were also told to prepare to leave.
And homes on the Sunshine Coast came under threat from an out-of-control bushfire. Police evacuated parts of Tewantin near Noosa at about 6pm on Friday.
Parts of Queensland endured temperatures as high as 39C on Friday as a heatwave swept across the state’s southeast.
Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter said at-risk residents needed to be ready to act.
“Once a fire gets to an emergency alert level, we may not be able to get to help you,” Mr Baxter said.
“We haven’t got the resources to be able to put into every single area so you must be prepared to survive yourself.”
Clockwise from main: Fire bears down on Harrington, a village south of Port Macquarie in NSW: a home is lost at Rainbow Flat, north of Forster, on the NSW mid-north coast; and a desperate fight to keep the flames at bay at Rainbow Flat
Fire emergencies at 9pm Friday