Homes lost as 100 fires rage

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - KIERAN GAIR

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.”

FACE­BOOK, JEREMY PIPER

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

Source: RFS

Fire emer­gen­cies at 9pm Fri­day

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.