Houses exploding, nowhere to hide: Bushfire catastrophe
The Battle of Rappville, by an anonymous Northern Rivers firefighter
STEVE, John, Troy and I got a callout today for fires at Rappville.
As we arrived there was huge amounts of smoke but not much fire to be seen.
We were tasked to defend Rappville school.
As we made our way there everything changed; we saw fire everywhere.
Houses going up in minutes, fire racing across the road and rail tracks.
At the school most of the Rappville citizens had taken cover as there was nowhere else to hide.
Houses on the school border were literally exploding in front of us.
Parked cars went up too, petrol tanks exploding.
We couldn't do anything to save them as the fire was way too fast and vicious.
Young Wayne from Rappville RFS saw a house under threat on the northern perimeter -- we put ourselves between the fire and house and put it out with rakehoes about 80cm before it hit the house.
We then defended the southern perimeter while two houses on the eastern perimeter across the road from the school, caught fire and were incinerated.
More houses on the western perimeter were lost as well.
I heard a dog screaming in pain inside one of the houses but couldn't help. There is no way the dog survived.
I had to tell an elderly lady that her home of 70 years had burnt down. She collapsed and I had to console her. That was really difficult.
We held the line and probably saved the school/evacuation point.
I then saw that the house Wayne and I saved earlier was hit by another fire and totally destroyed.
At that point an ember landed on my right eyeball.
Thanks to Robyn we got water in it fast, but there is a lot of pain.
The roads were blocked in all directions so I had to wait a few hours before I could go to hospital.
That's where I am now. Just been told its a burn on my cornea and eyelid. I asked for a pirate eye patch but I didn't get one.
The fires at Rappville are catastrophic -- that is no exaggeration.
I counted nine houses totally destroyed, God only knows how many sheds and properties has burnt down.
Powerlines are down over the roads, livestock bolting everywhere, no water, electricity, sewage or phones.
The heat was so fierce you could feel your internal organs heating up.
The water in your water bottle was too hot to drink.
Even on the way home there is fire literally on the Bruxner Highway, hot enough to melt the tar.
Rappville has been almost destroyed.
It will take years to rebuild, maybe longer.
The good news is that the pub survived.