Couple Found Dead At Home Destroyed By NSW Bushfires
An older couple has been found dead in their home after it was destroyed by a bushfire in Northern NSW.
Police confirmed human remains were found inside a property in Coongbar on Thursday, about 70km south-west of Casino.
Superintendent Toby Lindsay told reporters it's believed the remains are those of Robert Lindsay, 77, and Gwen Hyde, 68.
The married couple had been missing since the bushfire tore through their small, close-knit community on Tuesday.
Authorities visited the home on Deadman Creek Rd on Wednesday night to find it had been destroyed.
NSW Police and specialist forensic officers returned to the property on Thursday, finding their bodies inside the home.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons described the deaths as "tragic".
"It's a horrible outcome, but a truly sobering reminder of the ferocity of these dangerous and destructive fires that we've seen burning across northern NSW for months now," he said.
Earlier, as police and firefighters combed through the rubble, local Ken Crowther told 10 News First the couple are "known by everyone".
"It would be fairly devastating for us all," he said.
"People are pretty close in this community," local Darren Gill added.
The remote property is surrounded by timber plantations and sits at the end of a long, winding road. 10 News First understands Hyde had lived there for years.
It was destroyed by a fire that has been burning on Long Gully Road in Drake for more than a month. Fire investigators say it was caused by a lightning strike on September 5 and is not being treated as suspicious.
Fitzimmons said the fire broke out and spread across the Clarence River into the Coongbar area on Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, despite all the very best of efforts, and even holding the fire there on Monday, we saw some embers break out on Tuesday and spread very rapidly in an easterly direction," he said.
Firefighters were also battling a blaze at neighbouring Busbys Flat, which has since joined up with the Drake blaze.
A post-mortem examination will be conducted, and a report into the deaths will be prepared for the Coroner.
Lindsay said the circumstances surrounding the "unfortunate" deaths will be subject to an extensive investigation.
He said a "close family liaison" occurred on Thursday.
Major Damage To Multiple Towns
Dozens of fires continue to burn across the state.
The Drake fire destroyed at least eight houses on Tuesday while 21 homes were lost in the neighbouring Busbys Flat fire, the NSW RFS said on Thursday afternoon.
A forestry worker told 10 News First he helped plant many of the trees in Busbys Flat 14 years ago. They’ve recently been lopped and turned into chip for sale, but millions of dollars worth of it caught alight when that fire came through.
He said all his work here is now for nothing.
“It’s incredible what one match or spark can do," he said.
In Rappville, 40 minutes drive up the road, at least nine homes have been lost, which is a quarter of the town.
Not a single thing can be salvaged from Allan Robertson's Rappville home, which still burns a day after the onslaught of flames across his town.
"It was just like a massive fireball. There was nothing you could do ... the heat was horrendous," he told 10 News First.
Robertson escaped with his phone, his shorts and a pair of thongs. He wiped away tears as he spoke of his partner, who is in palliative care, and his town which suits in ruins.
"It's a good village, and we need some help," he said.
The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the Rappville fire a catastrophe, in a move that should help speed up processing of residents' claims.
Many residents were not insured, or are too old to rebuild. Those whose homes are still standing are worried this could be the end of the town.
Some families are already telling friends they won’t come back.
The sign as you drive in says the population is 140. After this week, it will be much less than that. The community hall burnt to the ground. Thankfully, the historic pub - the beating heart of Rappville -- survived.
It has long been a place where community could be found. Wakes, birthdays, celebrations, or just a bit of friendly banter. It’s now where many in the town are seeking some comfort.