AT LEAST 33 homes have been lost in a large, ferocious fire raging through the Warrumbungle National Park.
As of yesterday afternoon the Wambelong fire was burning out of control in the Bugaldie area, about 8km west of Coonabarabran, and had torn through more than 40,000 hectares of bush, scrub and grass.
According to the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), more than 50 sheds have also been lost since the fire started burning on Sunday and there had also been large losses of stock, machinery and other farm assets.
The number of homes destroyed is likely to change as crews work through the damage.
Our cover photo today illustrates the ferocity of the fire and is an image etched into Narrabri man Mark Barrow’s memory.
Mr Barrow, 31, came face-to-face with the wall of fire that engulfed the horizon on Timor Rd as he headed to work near Warrumbungle National Park about 5.30pm Sunday.
“It looked like an atom bomb,” Mr Barrow told the Daily Liberal (Dubbo). “It was pretty hectic. I couldn’t believe it came up so quickly. It was phenomenal.
“There were spot fires all around us. We just saw this and fled.
“We had to get out pretty quickly. I’m not sure whether the house in the picture is still there.”
RFS spokesman Brendan Doyle said just over 100 people had been evacuated to centres in Baradine and Coonabarabran and as of yesterday it remained too dangerous to return to the area as a result of the “fierce and intense” fire.
Four firefighters were admitted to hospital on Sunday night, but have all since been discharged.
More than 83 firefighters and 18 aircraft were yesterday working to establish containment lines, and extra firefighters and machinery were deployed to the area in anticipation of worsening conditions later this week.
Mr Doyle said a Tamworth aircraft with a rapid aerial response team was also on standby.
The spread of the fire was slowed after winds dropped early in the morning.
Mr Doyle said firefighters were looking at cooler conditions over the next couple of days and the RFS would be closely monitoring any wind or rain expected in the area.
The fire danger for the North Western fire area has been downgraded from very high to high today.
It is thought the Warrumbungle blaze was sparked by lightning, although investigators will examine the possible causes further.
The Coonabarabran Rd (locally known as the Baradine Rd) and Timor Rd (also known as John Renshaw Parkway) were both closed.
The Newell Highway between Narrabri and Coonabarabran remained closed late yesterday afternoon because of an uncontrolled fire burning 35km north-east of Coonabarabran.
There was no immediate threat to property but the fire was moving quickly north-west.
Shortly after 5pm yesterday the RFS advised the fire was heading towards Timmallallee Rd and unburnt areas of the Pilliga Nature Reserve were at risk.
Motorists were advised to use the Oxley and Kamilaroi Highways instead.
Up-to-date traffic information can be found at www.livetraffic.com.
Baradine remained without power and SES volunteers had to go house to house to inform the town’s residents of the fire activity.
An evacuation centre has been opened in Baradine at Tattersalls Hotel and a relocation centre in Coonabarabran at the Coonabarabran Bowling Club for those affected.
To locate relatives that have moved to an evacuation or relocation centre, call the
Public Information and Inquiry Centre on 1800 227 228.