ON ALERT: Rural fire crews and police contain and investigate a suspicious bushfire in Nimbin yesterday.
ON ALERT: Rural fire crews and police contain and investigate a suspicious bushfire in Nimbin yesterday. Jay Cronan

Region's extreme fire threat

COUNTLESS North Coast dwellings and communities are at extreme fire risk, according to a new risk management plan currently being developed by the Northern Rivers Rural Fire Service.

The service's community safety officer, Boyd Townsend, said conditions similar to the Victorian bushfires were not out of the question on the North Coast.

Speaking out after Wednesday's bushfire scare near Nimbin Rocks, Mr Townsend said that had conditions been different the fire could have exploded into the rugged Nimbin scrub and been potentially devastating.

“We were very lucky. In terms of climatic indicators, in my 11 years here it is the worst I've seen it,” he said.

“With the current ground moisture levels and low humidity, the only thing missing was the wind ... and we know that there are an extensive number of dwellings up there.”

What is of serious concern to authorities is the high density of rural dwellers living in heavy foliaged country across the Northern Rivers region, and the unknown number of illegal dwellings that could make evacuation operations extremely difficult for emergency workers.

“There are a lot of isolated dwellings and rural land sharing communities across the Lismore, Richmond Valley, Kyogle and Byron shires (and) quite a number of these sites are at extreme risk,” Mr Townsend said.

He respects that a lot of these communities have made a lifestyle choice to live in natural environments, but stresses that risks can be significantly reduced.

The RFS has also developed a new website which incorporates the latest science from analysis of recent fires, including the Victorian infernos.

It includes a sophisticated fire update system using Google Maps.

Meanwhile, a new fire threatening canefields at Dungarubba, west of Broadwater, is no threat at present. Fire crews are still patrolling containment lines at the Brooms Head and Coaldale fires.



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