Tingha homes lost as fire remains a threat to property and lives
A major bushfire on the NSW northern tablelands remains a threat to lives and properties and continues to spread in multiple directions.
- Despite the fire splitting around Tingha, homes were still destroyed in the town
- Northern NSW has been gripped by several fire emergencies this week
- Fires at Tabulam and Wallangarra have been downgraded
The blaze, which has so far blackened more than 12,000 hectares of land, surrounded the tiny town of Tingha yesterday and threatened to wipe it off the map.
But local firefighters who are familiar with the land and its residents have proven an invaluable asset for crews, helping identify key hotspots that threatened homes.
“Having that knowledge was critical for our success today,” Armidale firefighter Glen Hand said on Wednesday.
Michael Watts, a local firefighter of 22 years, said homes had been lost and it had been exhausting watching his community burn.
“It’s been terrible,” he said.
“It’s so devastating to see houses gone … we’ve done what we can and we’re going to keep trying, do our best.”
Homes have been wiped out in the northern New South Wales town of Tingha. (ABC News: Donal Shiel)
His colleague Brandon Livermore grew up in the town and joined the local brigade with his two brothers.
“This is the worst — I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
“It’s hard because it’s home. My house was under threat today but we soldiered on to help everyone else.”
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) this morning warned Tingha residents to be alert to heavy smoke and embers.
The blaze is burning towards properties in Gilgai, Ponds Creek, Old Mill and Stannifer.
“Properties in this area may also come under ember attack,” the RFS said.
Strong winds were pushing the flames closer to Old Mill and Stannifer.
Woman charged as fires rage elsewhere
There are still dozens of fires burning across the state, the most dangerous at Tingha, Tabulam and Wallangarra.
Police yesterday charged a 40-year-old woman in relation to the Tabulam fire, which has destroyed homes.
The woman was charged with starting the blaze when she set rubbish in her backyard alight.
The Tabulam fire has been downgraded to watch and act level and has scorched nearly 3,000 hectares.
Early this morning, it was burning west of the town and easing conditions had seen the threat to properties reduced.
Firefighters turned their efforts to slowing the spread of the flames.
The fire at Wallangarra, which is also at watch and act level, continues to burn on a number of fronts.
It has blackened 15,000 hectares and remains out of control, however the RFS said easing weather conditions had helped crews protect properties.
As the bushfire emergency raged into a second day, it emerged cows may have had a hand in largely saving the hamlet of Tingha.
With a population of 800, it is surrounded by a 3,000-acre “common”. There are no trees, and grazing cattle keep the grass down.
That means bushfire fuel is in short supply, and the vital buffer helped firefighters split the blaze around homes and businesses.
Firefighters have been working day and night on multiple fires across NSW. (ABC News: Donal Shiel)
Colleen Graham stayed to defend her Tingha home yesterday, confident the common would help block the flames.
“A lot of the old timers here, we put a lot of faith in that Tingha is surrounded by the common,” she said.
“Cattle keep that grass down so when it comes down to it there’s not a lot of fuel to burn.”
By mid-afternoon yesterday, all roads in and out of the town had been closed and while many evacuated to nearby Guyra, Dick Hayden had confidence in the common.
“Cattle have kept this dry grass in the drought very, very low,” he said.
“We’ve got practically no grass around Tingha.”