Fire chief loses own home while fighting to save town
RURAL fire chief Graham Goodman was one of the heroes who fought the devastating blazes around his home town of Uarbry for 24 hours straight when he was told he too had fallen victim to the catastrophic firestorm.
The RFS captain was one of two volunteer firefighters whose selfless actions battling to save lives and homesteads was repaid with the loss of their own homes in the disaster which enveloped the small central western NSW community.
Two others were injured, one with serious burns, during the worst fire conditions experienced in NSW. Mr Goodman was yesterday helping his farmhands bury the sheep that perished in the firestorm.
The inferno has destroyed his community. Nine out of the 12 houses in the tiny hamlet of Uarbry were levelled by the devastating blaze
Earlier, Mr Goodman been battling the worst of the Sir Ivan fire burning out of control just a few kilometres away.
"It was coming from all angles, it was the worst I've ever seen," the veteran firefighter said.
Mr Goodman told The Australian he was born in his family home in Uarbry, known as The Ranch, and moved across the road when married over 40 years ago.
"When they said The Ranch had gone I knew it was only a matter of time before we went up here too," Mr Goodman said.
He said his house "wasn't a mansion but it was home".
"It's an odd feeling being homeless but I won't be sleeping on the street. I've got some really great mates.
Dozens of fires tore through the state, destroying as many as 30 homes and leaving behind a charred wasteland of smouldering cars and dead livestock.
The Rural Fire Service said large numbers of sheds and other outbuildings were also razed to the ground.
In and around Warrumbungle, 23 homes and one church were destroyed.
Local economies were also expected to be hit hard due to the extensive loss of machinery, fencing and stock.
Vets were yesterday on the ground to assist with the grim task of euthanasing any animals caught in the blaze.
A large number were still unaccounted for.
The inferno has destroyed his community. Nine out of the 12 houses in the tiny hamlet of Uarbry were levelled by the devastating blaze.
Meanwhile, Geoff White recounted the moment his father Steve realised the home he and his wife Ruth had lived in for more than two decades was gone.
"He was just devastated," he said. "Everything that you've worked for all your life, it's gone up in smoke and so many memories.
"It's just not fair."
Mr White said his parents were heartbroken.
"They have been back there and there's just nothing," he said. The flames took their home but left two nearby properties standing.
"It's just weird how the fire goes," Mr White said. "But one good thing to look at is they're still alive," he said.
Former resident Masha Crilly, now living in the UK, was relieved to hear her parents had escaped before their home was destroyed. "It's awful. Loads of people have lost everything," she said.
More than 50 fires were last night still burning around the state, although the RFS had placed most of them at the lower "advice" alert level with just a couple still at the higher alert level of "watch and act".
Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday paid tribute to the state's weary firefighters, but warned: "We are not out of the woods."
Three people, including a former volunteer firefighter and a 13-year-old boy, were charged with deliberately lighting fires in separate incidents over the weekend.
Police say fires were deliberately lit at Mango Creek on the Central Coast, at Orange and Nabiac in the north.