'Very destructive': Fire boss warns to prepare for the worst
AFTER almost two months, the Long Gully Rd bushfire near Drake has finally been declared out by the NSW Rural Fire Service.
The fire was started by a lightning strike on September 5.
More than 1000 firefighters were deployed to fight the blaze, assisted by dozens of aircraft, but it burnt through more than 74,000ha of bush and farmland, destroying 44 homes and damaging another 22 homes.
Tragically, the bushfire also claimed the lives of two people.
The bodies of retired service station owner Robert Lindsay, 77, and farmer Gwen Hyde, 69, were found in their burnt-out Deadman Creek Road house at Coongbar on October 10.
It has been a devastating start to the bushfire season, but RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned it will only get worse, and urged people to be prepared.
He said the "very early, very destructive, very difficult" start to the season had already seen more than 5000 bushfires across the state since July 1.
"We've seen the drought-stricken landscape of NSW so depleted of moisture over the last 12 months, but particularly as we've come into this season," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
"The risk is real, the risk is here - this is no normal fire season."
Early indications are that "meaningful rainfall" may not come until late January or early February.
It is bad news for firefighters and those living in bushfire-prone areas, with a month of spring still to come and the worse of summer ahead.
"It is shaping up to be one of the most dangerous (fire seasons) ... you've just got to look at the existing landscape and the amount of fire activity," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
"The vegetation is very stressed and dry and fires are starting very easily, spreading very quickly and we're seeing a very intense level of fire behaviour.
"I can't recall an intensity and a significance of fire activity and this level of damage and destruction in my decades of the organisation.
"So yes, I am concerned and we've been saying that for quite some time now.
"It's shaping up to be a very long, very dangerous, very difficult fire season, and we cannot overstate, we cannot emphasise enough - complacency kills.
"If individuals and their families can please have a discussion, develop a bushfire survival plan."