A large tree falls to the ground during a fire on flats towards Tabulam.
A large tree falls to the ground during a fire on flats towards Tabulam. Marc Stapelberg

RFS hoping cool change will bring relief

UPDATE 5.30pm: RFS Superintendent Michael Brett said he's hopeful the promised cool change will offer relief for firefighters.

He said so far 4500 ha have gone up in smoke.

Speaking from the RFS main control centre at Glen Innes where he is incident controller Sup Brett said the Tabulam Fire is still burning.

"The fire is still developing on the west side," he said.

"The east side looks pretty goof but it's still running on the western side of Tingha River which is rugged country."

Sup Brett said he appreciated the great efforts made by firefighters and the greater community.

"Without the work and support of the community, employers letting their staff go and the firefighters who drop their business and turn out we would not be able to do all this," he said.

"All the agencies have been working together extremely well."


UPDATE 1.05pm: AS ANOTHER horror day unfolds, the Rural Fire Service is concentrating resources and efforts to contain the Tabulam fire.

A RFS representative said they more than 30 firefighters at the incident which saw a fire roar through the town and burn five houses to the ground.

"We currently have 31 firefighters, nine vehicles with assistance from two aircraft at the Tabulam fire," he said.

Meanwhile, the Bruxner Highway remains closed between Tambulam Road and Bruxner Road.

So far at least five homes in Tabulam have been destroyed as well as an unknown number of residences and structures at Jubulam Village.

Richmond/Tweed State Emergency Services Controller Mark Somers said the SES have people in the control centre at Casino.

"Our unit was out assisting people yesterday with evacuations at Tabulam," he said.

"At this stage we have the local uni activated are on stand-by."


UPDATE 6.45am: THE fire at Tabulam has been downgraded to Watch and Act overnight as conditions eased.

While the fire was not yet under control, firefighters took  advantage of favourable weather conditions overnight to conduct a backburn on the southern edge of the fire.

The Wallangarra fire, at Jennings on the NSW and Queensland border, two kilometres north of Tenterfield is still burning.

Conditions have eased across the fireground, however firefighters will work through the night to conduct a backburn to control the fire.

There is a number of isolated properties along Mount Lindesay Road and to the west of the Bruxner Highway which may come under threat.

If you are in the area, monitor conditions and ensure you know what you will do if the fire reaches your property or location.

If your plan is to leave, or you are not prepared, leave early.


THREE houses at Tabulam have been lost to fires which swept through the area yesterday.

Despite the efforts of firefighters who worked tirelessly to protect lives and property as the town of Tabulam and village of Jullubum were evacuated, the homes on Chauvel Rd could not be saved.

Helped by strong and gusty winds the fire burnt in a south-easterly direction burning close to 4000 ha to the south of the Tabulam township and the Clarence River.

At Tabulam, Rural Fire Services Group Officer John Arthur said crews on some 14 fire appliances managed to save homes in hot and gusty conditions.


He said the fire was been burning on multiple fronts and the crews had worked hard as the town residents relocated to an evacuation centre in the town.

"There's been fierce spot-overs from across the river and crews have been here working hard all afternoon," he said.

"We have spent a lot of time on property protection and saved a lot of houses, we did lose a shed, but managed to save the houses."

Mr Arthur said four fire trucks were also deployed to the other side of the Clarence River.

"Tonight we will be patrolling and reinforcing containment lines," he said.

"Tomorrow it's supposed to be worse, every hotter".

At the time this article when to print the RFS reported the fire is not under control and is spreading in two directions; northerly towards Old Bruxner Rd and Paddys Flat Rd and south of Tabulam in bushland along the Clarence River.

Isolated properties may come under threat tonight and the RFS urge residents to vigilant.

Police Investigation

Richmond Police District's Chief Inspector Nicole Bruce said they and RFS were informed around 2pm on Tuesday that a Tabulam property on the Bruxner Highway was on fire.

Chief Insp Bruce said at this stage police were still investigating the cause of the fire.

"There will be a full police investigation, we will have the crime scene out there," she said.

"We don't have any leads or suspects and RFS will (also) have their investigator here."

Chief Insp Bruce said so far there had been no injuries reported.

"Thankfully there have been no injuries but we do have 100 persons displaced as Jubullam Village was totally evacuated.," she said.

"But we have had three houses in Chauvel Rd, Tabulam, lost and also some structures at Jubullam."

Chief Insp Bruce said they were waiting on the RFS clearance before allowing residents back into the Village.

"We have FACS (NSW Family and Community Services) assisting and the Red Cross," she said.

School Evacuation

At the Mummulgum hall around 100 people including some children waiting for their parents, were waiting on news if their homes at survived.

Jubullum Aboriginal Education Officer Carmel McGrady said as soon as she and the teachers noticed the smoke they immediately got the 50 children out.

"The safety of the children was our main priority," she said.

"When it was time to go home we watched all the smoke and I rang my sister there to see it was safe for the kids to go home.

"By the time 3pm came we realised it was not safe and some parents collected the children and then a bus brought the the children here."

Ms McGrady said everyone was very grateful for the people of Casino who had already been very generous."

"The Mun Tien Chinese Restaurant sent us around $300 of donated food," she said.


Resident Derek Torrens was at the hall waiting to learn if his home had survived.

"I tried to hose the house down," he said.

His mother Judy Torrens said she was lucky to get out of the house with her family.

"We got out with only the clothes on our backs," she said.

Two local angels, Lyn O'Reilly and Kate Botfield said as soon as they saw the smoke around 4:45pm, they opened up the hall.

"We have been looking after around 100 people including children waiting news on their parents ," Ms O'Reilly said.

"There's lots of heartbreak and people who don't know if their homes have burned down."

Ms Botfield said people here needed reassurances and the pair raided their own refrigerators and pantries to provide refreshments.

"We came down about 5pm and people were already waiting for us."

Also at the Hall were the NSW Department of Family Services senior case worker Phi Davis .

"We were in the area when this came up so were here at 6pm," he said.

"We are here to see people are being looked after ."

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