Anyway, where's the army? ask NSW fire victims

'We always seem to be forgotten': Locals want more resources to fight fires

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Congarinni property owners Owen and Helen Rushton have been watching the bushfire as it approaches their property near Macksville. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Congarinni property owners Owen and Helen Rushton have been watching the bushfire as it approaches their property near Macksville. Photo: Wolter Peeters

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"When we have floods we never get mentioned on television or radio or anything. It's only the big places. We always seem to be forgotten."

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After spending most of her life as a landowner in the state's Mid-North Coast, Helen Rushton says she can't help but feel "forgotten" in times of natural disaster.

"Up in the country we keep saying NSW is Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Because that's where the main resources go and we understand that because that's where the population is," Ms Rushton said. "But it's up here, at times like this, when we need the resources."

From a hill on her Congarinni farm, just outside of Macksville, she and her husband have been watching the Kian Road fire inch ever closer since Friday, when the skies above glowed orange and she and her family felt seriously under threat.

"People talk about climate change and the politics ... the political part of it is we need resources for when these types of incidents occur," she said.

"When we have floods we never get mentioned on television or radio or anything. It's only the big places. We always seem to be forgotten," she said.

"This is one of the lowest socio-economic areas. We don't have the volunteers, we don't have the money, we don't have the funds. This is what happens."

In and around Macksville residents and volunteers say they feel they haven't had as much support as they need in the lead up to the fires, with many asking "what about the army?"

"At Warrell Creek on Friday they couldn't actually get a crew up [to a fire] because they didn't have a qualified driver. They couldn't actually get out and do anything because they didn't have the volunteers," she said.

"And only to have one fire plane dropping in the area, it's just wrong, with the vast area we've got."

Local firefighters around the area told the Herald that NSW was lacking in resources because Australia had sent water bombing aircraft to the US to help with the Californian bushfires.

One firefighter said the region had access to a single water-bombing Erickson Sky-Crane, however the aircraft was being shared across the state.

"We've only got one. I reckon we need six. There's a lot of choppers and planes but you need that big water crane."

A burnt out motorcycle on the fireground in Taylors Arm near Macksville. Photo: Wolter Peeters

A burnt out motorcycle on the fireground in Taylors Arm near Macksville. Photo: Wolter Peeters

A Rural Fire Service spokesman said further water bombing aircraft was being examined,"but given the [United] States' [fires] have still been going, this has been the problem and the reason that we've bought our own."

"There are a fair bit which are in the country now and more will keep arriving."

Keeping a close watch on the ridge beyond his property, Owen Rushton said there was a long way to go yet.

"The fires are one thing, but then there's the aftermath," he said.

"There's no feed in the paddocks, anything there was has been burnt and then getting resources to farmers is going to be another issue," he said.

"And it's not just us, its right up to the coast.

He added that the drought had been brutal on landowners in the region but said he was confident rain will come.

"This country's been through drought way before. It'll rain again. We're just going through a very dry cycle."

with Tom Rabe

The story Anyway, where's the army? ask NSW fire victims first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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