Fires on the horizon

Shane (one of our authors) has been keeping us posted on the fire that is bearing down on Coonabarabran, and has kindly sent some photos which I have pleasure in sharing.

It has been dramatic to hear of the approaching devastation from someone on the ground. This is real. This is life-changing. This is life-threatening.

No stunts.

Stay safe, Shane.

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87 comments on “Fires on the horizon

  1. Shane, those are amazing photos..having been through the Mt. Evelyn fires which preceded Ash Wednesday, such pics still send shivers. Take care won’t you.

  2. The senior rural ‘firey’ staying at my place for the season has just been given a ‘code 1’ and it must be serious because he left in a hurry with siren blaring.

  3. Interesting you should say this Charles. What are the implications of bush fires and CSG mining? Say nuclear power plant and earthquake/tsunami!
    Hope everyone stays safe. As devastating as it is to lose your home and belongings, life is irreplaceable.
    We are thinking of you, take care.

  4. One of the most horrible sights I remember as a lad was seeing fires on the horizon at night time on the farm on Kangaroo Island. You could tell whose farm it was. You could tell how close it was. It was hard to sleep.

  5. Any word on the observatory, I worked for MSSSO at the ANU when they were building the 2.3M Telescope up there, I was devastated with what happened to Mt Stromlo.

  6. You sure you wouldn’t like to pack your Mum up for a holiday on the Sunshine Coast Shane? It’s gotta be less scary!

  7. Great white sharks, yes. Great white wines, no. There is no such thing as a great white wine. Actually, there’s no such thing as a good white wine.

    Only Queenslanders drink white wine. They are an unsophisticated mob.

  8. Augustus. On the news this morning they showed pictures of the observatory. The visitor centre and some other out buildings were wiped out but the main buildings and observatory are ok.

    The heat must have been intense at the visitors centre as the windows had melted and run down the outside walls or were pools on the sills.

    Riding into work this morning and there’s still a lot of stuff smouldering and smoke around. Not good with the temperatures and winds rising again with another heatwave on the way.

  9. And still we have idiots throwing their unextinguised cigarette butts out of car windows. This dangerous act of stupidity attracts a mere $200 fine here in Canberra. It’s about time they upped it a bit as a deterrent. Maybe $2000 would work a little better.

  10. Queensland is a scary place.

    Coonabarabran is in the middle of NSW? I remember going there as a lad and seeing the telescopes (which I understand have survived, although the visitors center got burnt down)

    Is shane currently in NSW, or have the fires spread from Queensland down to Coonabarabran?

    we still have a couple of months of this to sit through.

    And that is the scary part Migs, it is only early in the fire season. I have to say though that watching it unfold from the safety of the television, it really looks like the departments and people effected are quite organised and effective, and are going about everything very calmly and methodically (given the circumstances). A testament to all involved.

  11. Augustus.

    While the telescopes shell survived they do not know how damaged they are inside as no one has been allowed to go back to Sidings Springs yet. The heat was that intense it has melted many metal and aluminium structures into lava on many farms, so the telescpoes could also be damaged or destroyed inside. I have pictures to send Migs of my friends burntout farm however they would not send via wifi last night as the system is getting overloaded. The winds are already changing and although it is not very hot yet the winds are picking up. Homes at Binge Grumble Rd are expected to come under threat later today. This Rd is south west of the town, but only just out of town. You can tell where the biggest danger is at any given time because the planes and helicopters change direction.

    Tom R
    Yes I am down in Coona arrived last Friday for a week for buisness, so just a stroke of luck I am here with mum at this time. My sisters are all so relived I am here.

    I hope the CSG wells do not blow up as well.

    There is a RFS mini township being set up for the workers and volunteers at the Race Course as the town cannot accommodate them all.

    To everyone who has wished us well, thank you very much and I will provide another update later today.

  12. Forgot to add that the main transmitter for a wide area of NSW for the ABC TV and Radio and RFS is in the warrumbungles and inaccessable for fire crews. As a result the planes are dropping fire retardant all around it in a bid to save it, however it could be lost at any time and we are being continually advised of this on ABC radio which would be a nightmare for the emergency services crews communications. It covers many 100s of square Kms of the state.

  13. Internet working from home at the moment so a quick update. Planes have been dropping fire retardant on the trees only 4 houses from mums, even though there is no fire there at the moment they are apparently worried it will swing around and down from the north as well. If that happens it will be West, South and North of the town, but the guys are doing a fantastic job in trying to keep the town safe. Winds are very calm at the moment after picking up earlier today. Lot of smoke in town today and hazy everywhere. I have sent some pics of friends house and car Migs if you are able to add them to the collection.

  14. It is migs. That was why I went straight up to them once they found out. The house is as though nothing was inside, no walls, furniture or anything. Just one burnt out gun cabinet.

  15. Good morning all. Apparently the RFS has now contained the fire around the town and only outskirt properties could become under threat. The wind has not picked up as much as expected (so far) which is such a relief. While we are waiting for the next 48 hours, it is now looking good for the town. Best nights sleep last night. People are returning home along Timor Rd to either a house or ash, but they have been permitted to go home. Only locals allowed down Timor Rd.

    Sadly we already have thieves taking advantage of the situation and claiming to be home owners to get through the blockades and are pilfering saved homes and going through burnt out homes. They are now checking licences and taking names.

  16. Hi Roswell

    I cannot believe how low they can be as well. I will try and get pics of the tent town at the racecourse as well today if possible.


    So ture and as CU said the photos do not show the speed at which this fire was attacking the town directly from the west last Sunday. The estimated temperature of the fire during its peak is between 800c and 1000c based on the melting of metal. It was so fast the kangaroos could not out run it and apprently they were huddling together on the roads and simply consumed standing up. Heartbreaking for stock and wildlife. Amazingly fodder donations are coming in from everywhere and that is what is needed for farmers and their stock and the native wildlife as there is nothing to eat, no grass and not even bark, sadly the native wildlife loss will be horrific for this park and surrounding areas.

  17. Julia Gillard has arrived and there is currently a public meeting in the town hall. Many have said they are going to get stuck into Julia. For What ?. Did she light the fire ?. Did she bring the wind ?. Did she fan the flames ?. Honestly the Right Wing nut jobs hatred and bitterness knows no bounds. This is a tragedy and emergency and she is the PM, here to offer condolences, visit the damaged areas and announce cash payments, if nothing else respect the position of our leader you pack of fucking imbeciles. Sorry but this has really shown what a bigoted and unthinking mob of nut jobs the right are when it comes to sensible respect.

  18. PM on news talking from Coonabarabran. PM relayed story of a volunteer firemen who had lost his house, who said the fire was so fierce that even grass with water running across it was burning.

    PM did not take any questions from media other than on the fires.

  19. While there is not much wind at the moment conditions are forecast to deteriorate but hopefully they will be incorrect like yesterday although it was still 36 in the kitchen at mums at 9.30pm last night and currently 28 and she has insulation. The Newell Highway is closed south of the town between here and Gilgandra. If anyone is looking at official temperatures in Coona you need to add 4 degrees to get the correct reading for the town as the temperature advised is at the airport or at the river. For example last Saturday official temperature 39 actual on verandah in the shade 43. Small fire south east as well but apparently under control (that is what they said about this one).

  20. It has broken containment lines again around 30km south of Coona so no threat to the town at the moment but a threat to farms in that area. Winds have picked up and coming from the N/W although there are no planes or helicopters heading N/W so that must be under control at the moment.

  21. Sky is starting to go red and black in the south and it is now out of control again. If the wind shifts tomorrow afternoon as predicted we could be in for a hell of a time then becuase it will throw the fire back at the town directly from the south in totally new bushland. My heart goes out to those in VIC and SA as well, may they be kept safe.

  22. Scary stuff Shane, one can only hope that they have the fire under control before the change hits. Bet your Mums glad your there. Stay safe and thanks for the updates.

  23. Hi LOVO and Min

    Yes she is very glad I happen to be here. Honeslty I think the fire is too big to control totally however I think the town is safe barring a terrible wind change.

    Haing said that they are filling up just down from mums again for the last hour and a half so that means close to town again and to the west as well as the Northwest along with the worst bit south of the town. 2 different helicopters that I have not seen before. While I believe we are ok I have finally convinced mum to pack her jewellery and photos that she wants just in case.

  24. 17 new fires started in the area from lightning strikes but they have been jumped on apparently. Very still this morning which is a blessing really. Cloud about at the moment and a few spits of rain but it mainly went both sides of the town and around most of the fire.Sadly we only had 4ml of rain in town so it is still out of control south of the the town. While it really does seem the town is now out of danger our main power line is now under threat for the area of Coonabarabran,Baradine and Binnaway as the line is in the direct line of the fire. Essential energy have trucked in generators in case the line goes, however we are being requested to severely curtail our electricity usage and even more so if the main line does go. No airconditioners or power guzzling machinery or non essential power usage if possible and if the line goes as minimal power usage as possible or the generators will fail. However my mum would not contribute to the power usage as she will not even let me turn on the refrigerated air conditioner when the temperature is 38 in the dining room, which is where my office is set up. So when I go for a drive in the car it is a joy to just sit and cool down.

  25. Shane, a different situation I know but when youngest had to evacuate during the Brisbane floods and son and daughter in law could have been in the firing line of Cyclone Yasi the most important thing was communication, so make certain that all mobile devices are kept fully charged. It’s something that some don’t think of..but I’m certain that you’re very organised.

  26. Hi Min

    As organised as possible and we must be on the same wavelength this morning as everything is on charge and my mobile has just been fully charged. Mum owns nothing that needs charging and at least she has the old telstra phone which operates even when power is out. Most people do not realise that the old handset phone operates from power down the telstra phone line and throw them out and buy a flash handsfree set. Coming from the country I have always kept the old phone wherever I go as I know it works in case of power outage.

  27. One of my friends was interviewed by ABC local radio late yesterday afternoon and they played the interview this morning on radio. Pol Air arrived yesterday, don’t know what for. There are so many head honchos here from government departments that I think it is the new head office of the NSW government 🙂

  28. Hi Shane

    I found that one out when I was living at Billinudgel..the electricity would go out whenever there was a flood which was fairly regularly, no electricity no phone..also at Billinudgel no electricity meant no loo. 😦 One idea is to get a portable device recharger.

    The other one is to make sure that the car is full of petrol. This I also found out was essential..quite often you need to drive to check the situation, such as whether or not you’re now able to get through and get to a store. I’ll never forget the one when the tank was on empty and I had run out of just about everything but had to drive back and forth to see if the 2nd causeway was able to be crossed. There were 5 causeways between me and the Billinudgel township.

  29. Shane

    thanks for all the updates.
    nsw govt probably setting up shop because abc news had story of fed govt centrelink staff in action, including that they had social workers on hand to assist any of the locals.

  30. shane

    here is the start of an article you may find an interesting read

    “A LITTLE pill could rival the water-bombing helicopter called Elvis as the firefighter’s new best friend.

    The tiny ingestible capsule is changing the way Australian firefighters work on the front line.
    The pill can relay an individual’s core temperature in real time, giving a better understanding of the body’s vulnerability to heat stress to protect firefighters.

  31. Shane, via an email from my cousin in Victoria..apparently they were trialling siren alerts via SMS but are having to revert to the good old fashioned method of a “live” siren. Reasons: mobile phone coverage can be very iffy in many areas, the elderly especially do not own mobile phones nor know about texting..or as my cousin put it, if she did receive an SMS during a fire emergency looking at text messages would definitely not be one of her she probably wouldn’t be able to find her glasses to read it.

  32. The one thing that has been stark to me is the need to retain essential services in PUBLIC hands. When the absolute major emergency was happening on Sunday the sms messages came from only 1 network. Telstra. This is because Telstra had signed up to the warning system. Optus and Vodafone after many months have still not agreed or signed up to the warning service, so those subscribers did not receive the prepare for evacuation sms warnings. The major service in relation to providing continuing information to us all was our local ABC. The network accused of bias and being slashed of funding which threatens the very existence of ABC local stations and content due to budget constraints. Honestly this experience has made me even more determined that essential assets remain publicly owned. There is absolutely no forgiveness for procrastination by private companies in relation to peoples lives. A service owned by the public is for the benefit of the public. A service owned by private enterprise is a benefit to shareholders and greedy CEOs. How Optus and Vodafone have not signed up to the emergency service warning system is beyond belief. For God sakes politicians learn from this and keep what we have left in public hands for public protection and benefit. Stop playing with our lives for the benefit of greedy corporations who always claim there needs to be a balance. Who would be to blame if an Optus client was burnt to death by not recieving an essential sms warning ?.

  33. Min

    Maybe they are having difficulty in negotiating with Optus and Vodafone as well. On Monday when it flared up again as we were watching, we received sms once again and also a landline automated voice message as well.

  34. Shane, that may have been what my cousin was alluding to. One of the worst things that governments could do is to sell off public assets. In a country such as Australia with it’s population isolated when compared with other nations, communication of all kinds must remain in public hands. There has been zero evidence that privatising of any sort has made any field any more competitive.

    If it had been up to private enterprise there would have been no flying doctor service, no school of the air. I remember how John Howard was considering selling off Australia Post. Can you imagine it 60 cents to send a birthday card if you live in the city, but $3.50 to send the same card if you live in the country. Australia has always subsidised country areas regarding services, and so it should be.

  35. And for the local abc radio, which was brilliant in canberra 2003, everyone needs a battery operated radio just in case of blackouts / ‘outages’

  36. Mark Scott finally got a shock when he decided that Tassie didn’t need local production. Will the chair of the ABC and Australian taxpayers decide they don’t need Mark Scott

  37. Sue, excellent idea..if you can find one that is..I’ve had loads of trouble even finding a battery operated travel clock. It seems that everything these days has to revolve around Apps and Facebook. 🙄

  38. The thing the services ( at the top) need to do is to STOP renaming operations and calling things a different name. People (especially the elderly) know what Under Control and Out of Control mean in relation to emergency. Now they use Contained, Being Conatined, Uncontained. For heavens sake keep the one set of terms and stick with them. Stop this word manipulation and american jingoism.

  39. When they were trialling the automated sms there was an actual emergency fire in an industrial site near where I live. In the middle of the night a text came through, there were so many spelling mistakes I wondered about the authenticity of it. The local radio had no news, middle of night no local broadcast, so I phoned station someone answered and they said they were investigating and yes there was a fire. I also had checked the local esa site on internet and there was no warning there. Soon after call to radio they broke into normal radio program and did a valuable service.

    However when it was in the news the next day and was reported by more than just me about spelling mistakes in sms text, the reaction was that people were a bit precious over spelling and should have taken warning seriously. So there !?

  40. Mina
    we went looking for one, especially after incident . It looks like an old fashioned radio, cream in colour and I have seen it at all major retailers.

  41. Sue, that could be another problem..verifying the authenticity of text messages. Most of us of course have received bogus emails purporting to come from banks, EBay, FedEx and so forth, so that I am certain that it wouldn’t take long for scammers to start copy-cat emails pretending to be emergency alerts.

  42. Wonder if action man will find the the time to fight a fire in his own region?

    “….Around 50 firefighters are battling a bushfire burning out of control near properties in Sydney’s north.

    NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said the 200-hectare fire was burning at Lovett Bay in the Ku-ring-gai national park.

    An RFS spokesman told AAP shortly before 10.30am (AEDT) on Saturday the fire was burning near properties but was not a direct threat to any of them.

    He said there were no mandatory evacuations being carried out but campers at The Basin camping ground in the national park had been advised to leave.

    They were being transported out by ferry because West Head Road was closed, he said.

    The cause of the fire was unknown, the RFS said…………..”

    Suspect that area, because of it’s history of shocking fires over the last couple of decades would be why it was not called on to fight fires down south.

  43. We might just be saved by that monsoon building up in the north. Lets hope it brings some rain the the NW NSW at least.

  44. Hoping.

    National: Cooling in the south east and wet for the northern Tropics.
    “,,,,,,,,,,,,An upper and surface low in central Queensland is triggering potentially severe thunderstorms and widespread cloud with the potential for quite heavy rain as well. This will result in a dramatic decrease in maximum temperatures and the system will slowly move west into the Northern Territory during Wednesday and Thursday and then into Western Australia late in the week. This will also cool temperatures under the cloud and thundery rain as it moves west ending the heatwave that has affected the interior of the continent since December. Temperatures will not become cold by any means but maximums should return to more normal Summer levels.,”

  45. Good morning all. Well we have 5ml of rain yesterday and the report is 8ml on the fire. I thought we were going to get more but it broke up late yesterday. While the threat seems over for the town there are still over 200 firefighters still fighting the blaze.
    Apparently the concern is the south and southwest. Was talking to a dozer driver yesterday arvo who was from Wellington. He and his father were dozing containment lines under instruction from the RFS. Apparently on Friday it did break containment lines again in the south and they were building an additional containment line when the fire was only 50m from them as they struggled to do their job. He said it was very frightening and in the end they had to withdraw. While it did break the line another was created and they managed to halt it again. They are being stood down from today as are many others.

    They all deserve our heartfelt thanks and admiration for managing to save the town and many other rural properties. The power did not go out and nor did we lose communications with massive resources being thrown at those 2 pieces of essential infrastructure.

    It was the first cool night in many days which is unusual for Coona becuase here usually has cool nights most nights even during summer. A very pleasant 21 in the dining room and cloud overhead. While rain is predicted today I am not sure we will get much based on the cloud formation at the moment.

    To those here who wished us well thank you for your genuine concern. A little online community of people I have never met yet still consider many true friends.

    In this town most who have been displaced are stayign with family of friends, hence the minimal need for emergency help and assistance. Two friends who lost everything have been put in homes in town rent free for three months from friends who own extra homes.

    I was going to say I propose to make this my final post on the fire, but decided to forgo making such a statement at this time, as it is still burning with a perimeter of 255km.

    I do hope to never experience last Sunday or Monday ever again.

  46. Hi Shane,

    Good morning to you too. That is very welcome news, at least there has been some relief for residents and volunteers. It is very humbling when one reads such stories, the stories of loss but also the stories of generosity; of community.

  47. Hi Min

    The generosity has been overwhelming, even Wooloworths ( whom I usually castigate for their greed and dominance ) gave free groceries to all who had lost their homes, as much as they wanted, no questions asked. Credit where credit is due.

  48. A service owned by the public is for the benefit of the public. A service owned by private enterprise is a benefit to shareholders and greedy CEOs.

    Well said shane. It is unfortunate that it takes a disaster to highlight hte obvious. It happened in the US with the Hurricane, and now here.

    I also hope that the NBN is never privatised. That is one promise I would be happy for the Government to go back on

    Thanks for the updates, and stay safe.

  49. While this will be my last report before leaving Coobnabarabran in the morning there may be others ( although I hope not) in our little community that become affected by fire before the summer is over. I spent time today with 2 more friends. 1 had lost everything and the others, everything except their home as the local brigade rushed between their home and warrumbungle motel over the road time and time again to save both on Sunday night and again on Monday afternoon.

    The couple that have lost everything are in their late 50s. They were up in Brisbane visiting their son when the news came of the fire and they rushed home. They have lost all, nothing left. I hugged them both tightly today. She looks in denial and shock with no emotion yet shown. He had been crying. She is taking long service leave and they are heading back to Brisbane to spend some time coming to grips with the loss. I doubt they will return.

    The couple that lost all but their home have 2 children aged 5 and 3. They have seen the devastation at their place as their father still camps at the home to stop thieves. Their insurance company (GIO) policy is to rebuild everything and this is commmencing. They seem to be taking it much better however everyone grieves in a different way and everyone handles loss in a different way.

    In addition we do not know a persons family and private life and whether any other major issues are affecting their emiotns and lives at the moment. those who say ” Get Over It” or “Be A Man” or “Toughen Up” ( and there are plenty here believe me) are callous shortsighted yobos from boganville. To be told to “Toughen Up” when everything has been lost from an event not of your making, fails to comprehend the built up grief and bottled up emotions that in the next few years could lead to suicides. there is counselling available for any who seek it, yet many refuse to accept it on the premise they will be look upon as weak and sissy. Sadly our society is yet to come to grips with the need to grieve and release.

    53 homes have been destroyed in a community of just 2,700 people. It would have been the whole town if not for the wind change on Sunday afternoon. 54,207 hectares or 54.207 square kilomteres has now been destroyed. 113 Sheds gone. Over 1000 head of cattle and sheep and untold native animals in the National Park lost. Almost 90% of the National park destroyed. Over 100 Electricity Poles burnt to the groung being replaced very quickly by the still government owned body.

    Over 400 volunteer firefighters being housed and fed at the Racecourse called tent city. I never made it there unfortunately although it was recommended as an amazing sight. 1800 meals being provided each day.

    All this and it still remains out of control or ( being controlled under the rubbish jingoism) in the south/southwest area.

    Signing off unless something happens overnight. I hope to have an uneventful trip back to the Sunshine Coast. I need to relax and wind down. While adrenalin can be an exciting thing it is also exhausting after the event.

    Once again thanks to those who showed and voiced their concern.

    Over and Out from your on the scene reporter and photographer at the worst fire in NSW for decades.

    Migs, my invoice for this exclusive service is in the mail 🙂

  50. Wish you all good luck, especially that mum of yours.

    Yes, you have proven the fifth estate can report the news as it happens.


  51. Finally, after 16 frightening days for al up there and anyone who is//has gone through a Bushfire,the huge Coonabarabran fire will be officially declared OUT tomorrow.Thinking of all who have endured the fires and floods across the great land + the stock losses, flora and fauna that will not come back.Shane,you are welcome at our table,anytime,thanks for the real updates

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