NSW breathes sigh of relief as bushfire season comes to an end

David and Dawn Keirle survey the remains of their bushfire-raveged home near Coonabarabran. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
David and Dawn Keirle survey the remains of their bushfire-raveged home near Coonabarabran. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

THE most “challenging” bushfire danger period in a decade has come to an end.

The official danger period ended on Wednesday, with NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers responding to 6000 bush and grass fire reports during the season.

With many of those reports came heartbreaking destruction.

Sixty-two homes were destroyed across the state, with 57 lost in January alone.

About 53 of those properties were in Coonabarabran. One resident from the north-western NSW town told Fairfax Regional Media the firestorm that engulfed the nearby Warrumbungle National Park shocked even the most seasoned firefighters.

The statement was echoed by NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, who on Thursday said the bushfire danger period had been the most “challenging” in about a decade, with temperature records broken and the “worst fire danger conditions ever experienced”.

“We also saw extensive livestock losses, particularly around Yass and Cooma, and many thousands of hectares of valuable farmland and fencing destroyed,” he said.

“In total, an area larger than greater Sydney, some 1.4 million hectares, was burnt from July to March.

“The losses could have been so much greater if it wasn’t for the work of firefighters, our co-ordinated firefighting arrangements, the use of aircraft, our ongoing commitment to hazard reduction, and our investment in new technologies.

“While we can never be complacent about the risk of fire, it is a good result that there hasn’t been a single loss of human life despite some of the worst conditions nature has thrown at us.”

“Our firefighters, from the volunteers of the NSW RFS who so generously give up their time, to the crews from our partner agencies, put in an incredible effort right throughout the season.”

INTERACTIVE: Click the image to see how bushfires spread across Australia during January

Click here to see how fires spread across Australia in January 2013

JANUARY FIRESTORM: Key numbers

* Eight days of total fire ban, including four statewide total fire bans

* First time a ‘Catastrophic’ fire danger ratings had been issued for forested areas and large population centres

* About 10,500 firefighters deployed, with many more on standby

* Over 650 individual taskings of aircraft by NSW Rural Fire Service

* About 8.7 million views of the NSW RFS website

* About 27.6 million impressions on the NSW RFS Facebook page

* About 26,300 calls received by the 1800 679 737 Bush Fire Information Line

* About 99 ‘Emergency Alert activations’

Bowning RFS crews on the fight front near Yass on January 9, 2013. Photo: Jay Cronan

Bowning RFS crews on the fight front near Yass on January 9, 2013. Photo: Jay Cronan

Members of the Sutton RFS, Michael Gardiner and Nick McGlocklin, fill up their truck from a creek next to Woolgarlo Rd, near Yass on January 12, 2013. Photo: Rohan Thomson/The Canberra Times

Members of the Sutton RFS, Michael Gardiner and Nick McGlocklin, fill up their truck from a creek next to Woolgarlo Rd, near Yass on January 12, 2013. Photo: Rohan Thomson/The Canberra Times

Sheep search amongst the burnt ground for food next to Burrinjuck Rd, near Yass, NSW on January 12, 2013. Photo: Rohan Thomson/The Canberra Times

Sheep search amongst the burnt ground for food next to Burrinjuck Rd, near Yass, NSW on January 12, 2013. Photo: Rohan Thomson/The Canberra Times

Sheep farmer, Peter Southwell, on his property near Yass where he has lost about 80% of his paddocks to bushfire on January 12, 2013. Photo: Rohan Thomson/The Canberra Times

Sheep farmer, Peter Southwell, on his property near Yass where he has lost about 80% of his paddocks to bushfire on January 12, 2013. Photo: Rohan Thomson/The Canberra Times

The Sand Hills fire east of Canberra, East of Bungendore. Firefighters desperately attempt to prevent tge fire leaping the Kings highway, the main road between Canberra and the South coast of NSW. Photo: Chris Hammer

The Sand Hills fire east of Canberra, East of Bungendore. Firefighters desperately attempt to prevent tge fire leaping the Kings highway, the main road between Canberra and the South coast of NSW. Photo: Chris Hammer

A bushfire that started along Mates Gully Road quickly spread towards Tarcutta. January 8, 2013. Photo: Oscar Colman

A bushfire that started along Mates Gully Road quickly spread towards Tarcutta. January 8, 2013. Photo: Oscar Colman

Oura fire. Photo: Les Smith

Oura fire. Photo: Les Smith

* More than one million texts and phone calls sent on January 7

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