Adaminaby: worst yet to come

Bill and Joan Fogarty’s house was destroyed by the Bugtown fire on Saturday afternoon.

The Bugtown fire, which had the Adaminaby community at risk on Saturday afternoon, is still currently listed as an out of control fire with the Rural Fire Service.

The RFS updated the Bugtown fire to emergency level on Saturday afternoon, with the front burning to the north west of Adaminaby and spreading quickly.

The fire itself was at one stage 1000 hectares in size, and with a north-easterly helping it along, there were grave concerns for the community of Adaminaby.

Despite the work of NSW and ACT ground crews, who were supported by RFS water bombers, some properties have reportedly been destroyed. 

Former firefighter and Nationals MP Peter Cochran, who spent three hours in the air on Saturday with a helicopter provided by Terry Snow and Christopher Knight and their Canberra helicopters business, detailed the ferocity of the fire front.

“It was catastrophic and just so intense, like nothing we have seen in this area before,” Mr Cochrane said.

“Once the fire got on the run on Saturday afternoon, nothing was stopping it; it didn’t matter how many planes or ground crews we had, nothing was stopping that fire.”

Cochran, a former fire control officer with years of experience fighting bushfires, detailed some of the known property loss, but explained it could have been far worse without the combined efforts of emergency agencies.

“The fire went past Nungar Plains and destroyed multiple buildings, including Bill and Joan Fogarty’s home, the Heatherbrae homestead, along with other sheds, including a woolshed,” Mr Cochran said.

“We had two separate local brigades and the ACT government had some crews working there and I assisted them there in getting a dozer in.

“Every effort was made by the RFS, Fire and Rescue, National Parks and other agencies to contain the fire and the damage would be a lot worse without these teams on the ground and in the air.”

The self-proclaimed bushwhacker, laughed-off reports that the Bugtown fire had burned 19953 hectares, a figure that was released by the RFS at 10am on Monday.

“I would suspect it would be four times bigger than that, if not more,” Mr Cochrane said.

Mr Cochrane also warned that the fire was still burning in an unpredictable fashion, and could get worse in the coming weeks, or even months.

“Remnants of the fire is still burning in a massive area and we could see this fire continuing until March or April,” Mr Cochran said.

Mr Cochrane was gobsmacked by the lack of fire reduction methods utilised in the area, blaming both residents and the government for ongoing neglect.

“Absentee landholders must be directed and forced to perform hazard reduction on their properties and crown land isn’t adequately resourced to perform hazard reduction in the national park,” Mr Cochran said.

“There is no doubting that these higher fuel loads on properties and in the national park have caused such intense fires.

“This isn’t just the current government’s fault either, this has been an issue for the last 40 years and if we do not address hazard reduction in this area, these fires will only get worse in coming years.”

A frustrated Cochran believes the only way these fires will be extinguished is by rain and good luck.

“Unless we get substantial rain, we are going to face these fires reigniting in a big way,” Mr Cochran said.

“It could be a tough period for local communities with the risk of fire still very real.”

The RFS still have the Bugtown fire at advice level and ask residents to continue monitoring conditions and know what they will do if fire threatens.