Strength of fires unlike anything he's every seen

THE power of the fires at Coonabarabran have been unlike anything Rural Fires Service volunteer of 14 years, Brett McCarthy has ever seen.

Mr McCarthy led a team of nine Orana task force volunteers in two trucks and a support vehicle to Coonabarabran on Sunday and spent that night protecting houses on the road between Coonabarabran and Barradine at Bugaldie.

"We went straight into property protection,"Mr McCarthy said.

He said the journey out to the fire ground was a difficult one but on arrival the work began.

"There were power poles and lines down everywhere," he said.

"There was a horrendous amount of poles down and you can't assume the lines are dead. We were trying to drive through slow enough to miss them.

"We lost some sheds but we also managed to save some houses.

"There were quite a number of houses lost, but we managed to save quite a number too."

He went twice to Victoria in the aftermath and clean up of the Black Saturday fires, but the fires at Coonabarabran were unique in their power, he said.

Once the fire has moved on from the properties the volunteers were protecting the work would not yet be complete, he said.

"There are embers everywhere and it only takes one to undo all the hard work.

"You really have to stay there until the risk is over."

Mr McCarthy said the prospects of the RFS volunteers returning to the fire looked imminent. He said employers of his volunteers were supportive when their staff were called away to fight fires.

Mr McCarthy, who runs a Century Batteries agency said his head office in Brisbane had called him to offer support staff to come down and run the agency if he needed to go back to the fire-ground.

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