Early start to North Coast fire season

Fire season brought into sharp focus on North Coast


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Bushfires on the North Coast this past week, like this one near Kempsey, blackened more than 34,000 hectares and destroyed four houses and 29 outbuildings.

Bushfires on the North Coast this past week, like this one near Kempsey, blackened more than 34,000 hectares and destroyed four houses and 29 outbuildings.

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Last weekend's powerful weather system leaves a blackened landscape after an early start to the North coast fire season.

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Rural Fire Service image of the Verges Creek fire that threatened property north of Crescent Head.

Rural Fire Service image of the Verges Creek fire that threatened property north of Crescent Head.

Bush country east of the dividing range lit up with incredible intensity last weekend in the wake of a major winter weather event, with fires continuing to smoulder.

Gusting westerly winds fanned a multitude of simmering embers, many left over from burn-off work carried out days and weeks before the wild weather arrived. In the end four houses and 29 outbuildings were destroyed and more than 34,000 hectares blackened from more than 50 separate incidents between Cooplacurripa on upper Manning and the Queensland border.

Major blazes included the 6076ha Clearfield Road fire north of Whiporie in the Richmond Valley, burning through mixed hardwood and destroying $1 million worth of mature plantation pine, along with two houses and two outbuildings. Another three fires in the vicinity totalled more than 2400ha, one of which claimed an outbuilding and damaged a house. The source of these fires remains under investigation.

In the Clarence Valley, a blaze claiming 5000ha swept across rugged sandstone country, either side of Kangaroo Creek, fled east and threatened numerous small properties in the Lanitza and Kungala areas. Another running through steep mountain bush country at Chambigne near the Nymboida blackened 4284ha. Four other fires in that valley claimed more than 3600ha, including nearly 2000ha at Whitemans Creek near Copmanhurst.

In the Macleay Valley a fire at Gilmores Gully near Toorooka took a house, five outbuildings and 3100ha while another at Turners Flat destroyed a house and an outbuilding and more than 1000ha. A most spectacular blaze at Verges Creek on Saturday threatened property north of Crescent Head and continues to smoulder after blackening almost 1300ha.

Fires in the Hastings Valley included one burning through 1000ha in state forest near Rollands Plains.

There were town fires too, like some deliberately lit in the Kempsey township, while self-combusting green-waste compost at the Lismore tip continues to create choking smoke, closing the facility while the district's garbage is trucked elsewhere.

Certainly the timing of the fire event worked in the favour of those involved, with cooler night temperatures helping to minimise some effect, but until forestry areas are properly surveyed the true extent of damage has yet to be finalised.

Angus breeder Bob Austen, Chambigne, said the fire that burned through Ramornie state forest and a national park of the same name came to his back boundary, on the Chambigne creek that flows into the Upper Orara.

"I'd say that fire had been going for three weeks before it really took off," he said, describing the orange glow that burned to a height of 300 metres in steep and undulating country as "red raw".

At Camira Creek, near Whiporie, Cate McQuilen, co-creator of the children's show Dirt Girl, is used to smoke lingering around the house after three major fires in the past 18 months.

She and her husband Huey, who writes the original scores featured in the cartoon-like series, have culled precious belongings to the basics. Treasures like hand written letters from her father and sentimental items of clothing, like the original Dirt Girl outfit, are stowed in a small carry case under the bed, ready to grab in an instant. For Huey the list includes two favourite guitars and an equal number of undies.

Best to have a plan!

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