High country ravaged by fire

The Snowy Mountains Highway near Yarrangobilly.

Devastating pictures of historic huts burned to ashes in the Kosciuszko National Park (KNP) have been circulating, but building impact assessment teams are still making their rounds and final numbers and details have not yet been released.

Mark Williams with the National Parks and Wildlife Service [NPWS] says there have been some significant losses within the KNP.

“The Selwyn Ski Resort, the Kiandra Court House and a number of huts within KNP were lost or damaged by fire, despite several being wrapped in protective foil to help preserve them,” said Mr Williams.

“The KNP fires are still active and efforts are focused on putting these out first.”

The Kiandra Courthouse was built in 1859, during the “shortest and coldest gold rush” in Australia, according to the NPWS. The small stone building was designed by then-NSW Government Architect James Barnet, and included a police quarters and a courtroom.

The Kiandra Courthouse.

Kiandra is known as the birthplace of Australian snow skiing, and the courthouse was transformed into a chalet in the late 1950s with extensions to the ground floor and a first floor addition. It was also used to provide accommodation for workers on the Snowy Hydro Scheme and later used as a base for snow clearing operations from the early 1970s until 1999.

The courthouse was added to the NSW State Heritage Register in 1999 and many of the 1960s additions were removed. The courthouse was then closed up until 2010, when the building was reopened and restored. In 2013, the courthouse received approval from the Heritage Register to again be used for accommodation.

The area around Yarrangobilly Caves fared much better than the courthouse. A 36-hour fire fight exhausted crews, but saved the complex. Mr Williams said that recent renovations to the Yarrangobilly Caves House played a big role in protecting it from the blaze.

“A sprinkler system installed during its recent reconstruction was deployed,” said Mr Williams. “Fire crews at the site provided vital support with additional backburning helping to limit the impact.”

The extent of the damage to huts in the KNP is yet to be released, but reports say the Wolgal Hut and Pattison’s Hut, both part of the Kiandra Project, were destroyed.

Other huts believed to have been lost include Delaneys, Sawyers Rest House, Happy’s, Brook’s, Matthews’, Round Mountain, Bradley and O’Brien’s, and 4 mile.

Large tracts of the park have been scorched.