Fire authorities believe up to 30 homes have been destroyed as an out-of-control bushfire continues to burn in northern NSW, while donations pour in for an elderly man who was rescued from a shed.
The NSW Rural Fire Service on Wednesday morning said the fire ripped through the village of Rappville, with a population of around 250 people.
Other buildings, including the town hall, had also been lost.
“I’ve lost the bloody sheds, the house, lost everything,” Rappville resident Danny Smith told reporters on the scene.
“We might have saved the second place but everything else has gone.”
More than 40 bushfires are currently burning across NSW, with 13 yet to be contained. More than 500 firefighters are battling blazes.
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said the two fires out of control – at Drake near Tenterfield and at Busbys Flat near Rappville – had now joined together to form one large blaze.
That combined fire – currently at a “Watch and Act” alert level—is now burning across more than 90,000 hectares.
But firefighters will be aided by cooler local conditions.
“The conditions are much easier today but we’re in this cycle of bad weather, we get some easing days and then we’re back into it. We’ve already lost 44 homes up until these fires, and if we’ve lost that (30) number more, it’s going to be a really bad fire season,” Rogers told the Seven Network.
John Duncan, 83, lost his home in the Busbys Flat blaze.
His daughter Carol has set up a GoFundMe page to help her father who she says “lost everything except the clothes he was wearing”. By Wednesday morning the page had raised more than $9,200.
Duncan said her father had moved to the area from Canberra after the devastating 2004 bushfires, “not wanting to go through it again”.
She says firefighters responded to a tweet asking for advice and went to the home to take him and his partner to safety. They had been sheltering in a shed.
“So, the RFS people who went and got my Dad and his partner OUT OF THE SHED thanks to Twitter … saved my Dad’s life,” Duncan said.
An evacuation centre has been set up at St Mary’s Catholic College in Casino for those who were forced to flee the Busbys Flat fire.
It is also expected to rain across northern NSW on Friday.