Drake fire over, as a community counts the cost

After the loss of two lives, 44 homes and 74,000ha of bush and farmland, the Drake fire is declared over. Photo by Daniel Waters, NSW RFS.
After the loss of two lives, 44 homes and 74,000ha of bush and farmland, the Drake fire is declared over. Photo by Daniel Waters, NSW RFS.

After seven and a half weeks of unrelenting pressure for firefighters and residents alike, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) officially declared on Sunday afternoon that the Long Gully Rd fire near Drake was extinguished.

The devastation was sparked by a lightning strike on September 5.

In the tally the RFS said the fire burnt more than 74,000 hectares of bush and farm land.

It destroyed 44 homes, damaged a further 22 however almost 300 were saved across the fireground.

Most tragically the fire claimed the lives of Gwen Hyde and Bob Lindsey in their home at Coongbar in neighbouring Clarence Valley Local Government Area, on Tuesday, October 8 It was one of at least eight houses destroyed by the fire that day.

More than 1000 firefighters were deployed to fight the fire, assisted by dozens of aircraft.

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RFS Northern Tablelands' Scott Keelan said favourable weather conditions, along with people working day and night, managed to bring the emergency to an end.

He said people may still see smoke in the distance as trees fall and stumps continue to smoulder, but such incidents are now well within the boundaries of the burnt ground. Local crews from the Drake and Frasers Cutting brigades will continue to patrol the area.

"They'll keep an eye on things," Mr Keelan said.

He said the team is putting together information from the fire for an after-action debrief with personnel and senior firefighters to review the response to the blaze and assess procedures. Crews, however, remain busy with 12 firegrounds in the Northern Tablelands region.

In the Tenterfield Shire these include an outbreak at Skyes Gap Road near Beaury and others at Silent Grove and Torrington.

With it not yet even summer, Mr Keelan asked people to be mindful of weather events that may produce lightning strikes, and to report any unattended fires.

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