Upper Tooloom grazier and forester Sam McMurtrie stood silently in front of his smouldering property.
Upper Tooloom grazier and forester Sam McMurtrie stood silently in front of his smouldering property.

The battles of Paddys Flat

UPPER Tooloom grazier and forester Sam McMurtrie stood silently in front of his smouldering property holding his three-year-old son, Hunter.

Behind him a distinct line divided pasture from charcoal, marking the ridge north-west of Tabulam where he’d just beaten back the fire that had consumed most of his 2800ha property.

“It’s pretty concerning. We had knee-deep feed in there and bang, now it’s gone” he said.

“We’ll be short of feed for the cattle and horses soon, but at least they’re safe for now.”

Mr McMurtrie said the fire came in from the west on Sunday night.

“It jumped the Clarence River and hit the back of my property on Wednesday.”

Firefighters north of Tabulam launched a major fightback across a 10km containment line last night in an effort to contain 17 fires that have been burning out of control in the Paddys Flat area.

Rural Fire Service group captain Dave Tucker said yesterday crews had been protecting a house under threat at Mosquito Creek and were about to waterbomb spotfires that had jumped containment lines near Eight Mile gold mine in an effort to reclaim 600ha, protect buildings and equipment around the mine, and prevent a kilometre-wide front heading deep into rugged country.

“Today the conditions are good so we’re having a red hot go at it,” he said.

Firefighters planned to light the major containment line last night to prevent the fire spreading east, north and south into Yabbra National Park, protecting a tourist lodge and a major communications tower that carries emergency services and mobile phone communications equipment.

Northern Rivers RFS manager Michael Brett said the backburn would starve the advancing fire.

“If needs be we’ll drop incendiary bombs in from helicopters tomorrow to speed the burn,” he said.

“When the hot westerlies arrive next week it will hopefully all be burnt out.”

Steve Hill and Neil Thorman, from Wollongbar, were up to their elbows helping with the backburning.

“We’ve been protecting my aunty and uncle’s house and property up here while they’re overseas.

“We’ve been working in with the RFS and the co-ordinated backburn,” he said.



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