NSW Bushfires Coronial Inquiry hears of South Coast 'flashovers', 'extreme conditions'

The New Year's Eve 2019 bushfires were so intense, residents have described it as "going white like a camera flash" a NSW Bushfires Coronial Inquiry has heard.

The aftermath of the Badja Forest Fire on the Corbys' property at Wandella. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

The aftermath of the Badja Forest Fire on the Corbys' property at Wandella. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Some of the first accounts of the deadly Badja Forest Fire were presented on Monday, September 6, as a coronial inquiry into the 25 people who died as a result of the state's Black Summer got underway in Sydney.

The Badja Forest fire, which claimed seven lives, was the focus of the opening session of the inquiry, with early testimony around the extreme speed and severity of the fires as it ravaged Bemboka, Cobargo, Quaama and surrounding villages leaving more than 400 homes destroyed and a further 100 damaged.

Opening statements included details of the fire's ignition via lightning strike on December 27 and its "spread at an alarming rate in excess of three kilometres per hour".

The impacts on communities of the Far South Coast were primary in the opening statements where evidence from fire experts told of the "extreme and unprecedented" speed and spread of the fire in the early hours of New Year's Eve 2019.

Statements provided by a number of residents as well as Rural Fire Service members are to make up a substantial amount of the evidence to be presented, including observations by fire captains who worked to save properties and lives through the night.

A submission from Cobargo fire captain Mark Ayliffe spoke of flame heights of 15-to-20-metres through grassland as fire fronts approached Cobargo from the west. "I have never seen flame heights that high in grasslands before," the court heard from a section of Mr Ayliffe's submission.

Accounts from other firefighters also described the difficulty on fire grounds as the blazes "did not behave as you expect it to".

The court also heard a harrowing account of five separate RFS crews working to save the Quaama RFS station where more than 50 people had sheltered with their pets.

One submission noted flames came within metres of the western wall of the station.

The inquiry continues.

This story Fires 'like a camera flash' coroner told first appeared on Bega District News.


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