Weather News

NSW bushfires still out of control as residents face the devastation

By Sarah Thomas, Mark Reddie and Michael Cavanagh, Monday September 9, 2019 - 00:04 EST
ABC image
Drake resident Scott Cannon returned home on Sunday to this scene. - ABC

Firefighters continue to battle multiple fires across NSW but two blazes of major concern in the north of the state have been downgraded overnight.

More than 680 firefighters have been working to tackle 53 fires, with 18 uncontained, across the state in a dangerously early start to the fire season.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has warned a number of fires could burn for six to eight weeks and the strong winds forecast again for Monday could worsen conditions.

Conditions have eased slightly at Bees Nest, near Armidale, and at Long Gully, near Drake, with both fires now at watch and act level.

The fire around Drake is burning down Long Gully Road but winds are now pushing it away from the town of Tabulum, which was devastated by bushfire only seven months ago.

Further south near Armidale, the Bees News fire has burnt more than 56,000 hectares of bushland and residents around Dundurrabin and Tyringham are still at risk.

Fires at Legume and Mount Mackenzie Road in Tenterfield and Cobargo in the Bega Valley and South Maroota in the Hills Shire have been downgraded but residents have been warned to keep monitoring advice.

The RFS has also issued warnings for Jeogla near Armidale and Shark Creek in the Clarence Valley.

Strong winds are again forecast for Sunday with gusts of around 40 to 60 kilometres per hour.

The RFS said fire danger was very high across the Far North Coast, North Coast and New England areas.

An initial assessment of fire-affected areas on Sunday found five homes, 20 outbuildings, two car yards and a pistol club were damaged in the Tenterfield area. In Lidsdale, one home and three outbuildings were damaged.

'Everything is gone'

Drake resident Scott Cannon and his wife Leonie left their home on Friday after receiving a call from the fire service to evacuate.

Mr Cannon returned home on Sunday to discover his home had been completely decimated.

"We've been completely wiped out. Everything is gone — and no insurance.

"All we've got is in the car, and us. And luckily the dogs.

"You can sit down and lie and scream and cry and everything but what's happened has happened. First things first, we've got to see where we're going to stay tonight and take it from there."

Elsewhere in Ebor, south of the Bees Nest fire, about 50 people attended a community information meeting on Sunday afternoon.

The NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall was also in attendance to hear concerns raised by local property owners.

Landholders are worried that the wind may shift from a westerly direction and instead come from the north, and they also stressed the need for up-to-date information on the fires.

Property owners needing access to fodder or water should contact Local Land Services' hotline on 1800 814 647.

Meetings were also held earlier in Dorrigo and Tyringham.

Another resident affected by the Bees Nest area fire, Nellie Hayes, has returned to the family property, Gulf View, 25 kilometres north-east of Ebor to search for cattle after significant damage.

"There was 1080 hectares burnt, all the yards are gone, fences, a lot of livestock," she said.

"We're still looking for some of the livestock, we've found 122 head so far and still looking for live ones hopefully.

"There's still a few spot fires around. There's still a few fires in logs and trees, but we've been driving around trying to find livestock and checking the damage and taking photos but the wind is pretty dangerous."

"We might get a helicopter in and have a look around, otherwise it'll be bikes, buggies and just hoping we can find some more."

Unprecedented fires

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the early fires were an indication of a dangerous bushfire season ahead.

"Never before have we recorded extreme fire danger conditions this early in the month of September," he said.

"Normally, you would expect those sorts of conditions as you come closer into the summer months.

"It is a sobering reminder of what is ahead, with the outlook indicating the next three or four months is dominated by above-average temperatures, below average rainfall and unfortunately there is no meaningful signal anywhere for drought-breaking, relieving rain."

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared the bushfires a catastrophe and will give priority to claims from affected policyholders.

It has established a hotline — 1800 734 621 — to assist policyholders and field inquiries about claims.

It said it was planning to organise community meetings to give property owners information about the claims process.

The ICA head of risk and operations Karl Sullivan said it had not declared a bushfire catastrophe for some years.

"So this is a sign that we're facing probably quite a serious bushfire season both in northern New South Wales and throughout Queensland," he said.

He added it was too early to assess what the number of claims lodged might be.

"That's quite typical with an event like this where there's been a lot of evacuations and people have been following the advice of emergency services to remove themselves from harm's way.

"Our guidance is don't take any unnecessary risks, continue to follow the advice of emergency services when it is safe to do so.

"When you're allowed to do so return to your property and assess if you need to make a claim at that point."


© ABC 2019

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
National Nine News
News Limited

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Perth storm damages homes, brings down trees and causes peak-hour traffic chaos

00:54 EDT

A severe thunderstorm has struck Perth and surrounding parts of Western Australia, bringing damaging winds, heavy rainfall and hail and causing chaos in peak-hour traffic.

South-west Queensland watching floodwaters rise after rain drenches the state

16:20 EDT

An emergency flood declaration has been declared for the township of St George in the southern inland as floodwaters continue to rise in south-west Queensland.

Warm Coral Sea fuelling storms over Queensland

13:21 EDT

Unusually warm water in the Coral Sea is fuelling showers and thunderstorms over Queensland this week.