Lennox Head fire devastation

Freak fire burns 500ha

MAIN PICTURE (ABOVE): Fires north of Lennox Head, taken from Pat Morton Lookout.
MAIN PICTURE (ABOVE): Fires north of Lennox Head, taken from Pat Morton Lookout. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

A FIRE ignited by a lightning strike on Sunday night has now taken out more than 500ha of scrubland along The Coast Road between Lennox Head and Broken Head, although firefighters have managed to save dozens of properties in the vicinity.

Ross Lane was closed about 6pm last night so Rural Fire Service crews could backburn in an effort to secure the fire perimeter and "provide safety to the Lennox Head township".

More than 60 residents were evacuated on Sunday evening as the fire spread rapidly through heathland from Lennox toward Broken Head, threatening homes at Linnaeus Estate, Tobin Close, Blackbutt Lane and Bundaleer Road.

Photo gallery of images from the blaze:

Rural Fire Services had 15 trucks and 35 crew working through Sunday night to protect homes and at the time of going to press the fire was still raging near Bundaleer Road.

Last night the RFS advised that backburning operations would continue in the vicinity of Camp Drew, along the south-western boundary of the Lennox Head township and around Tobin Close.

"It was crazy ... it hasn't burned like this for 18 years," Terry Buckley, Group Officer for Ballina Shire RFS said.

Yesterday the fire was still burning in the vicinity of Bundaleer Rd, to the north west of Tobin Close and north west of Camp Drew at Lennox Head.

Landowner Owen Lynn spent Sunday night and yesterday monitoring the 600 acres he owns and has subdivided along and near Bundaleer Road and described explosions of flames.

"Flames were jumping 400 metres," he said.

"I was so worried and I had home owners calling me to see if their houses were safe."

FAR LEFT: Owen Lynn land owner at Bundaleer Road looks on.
FAR LEFT: Owen Lynn land owner at Bundaleer Road looks on. Doug Eaton

Mr Lynn said he was angry the fire had been allowed to grow so large, claiming it could have been prevented with back burning.

"I've lived here for 67 years and the farmers around here always cooperated to maintain and dozer the fire trails and back burn every winter," he said.

"This fire could have been prevented if National Parks had allowed us to continue to maintain the trails and back burn.

"We were locked out over 15 years ago," he said.

RFS protect the Linneaus Estate north of Lennox Head yesterday.
RFS protect the Linneaus Estate north of Lennox Head yesterday. Doug Eaton

But National Parks Northern Rivers manager Mark Johnston has pointed out the fire neither started on nor burnt any land managed by NPWS.

The 600ha fire in fact burnt across Crown land, privately-owned land, and land owned by the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council.

"This started on private property which the NPWS has no authority over," Mr Johnston said.

Mr Johnston said under the Rural Fires Act, all landholders had responsibilities to prevent the spread of fire, including private property owners.

"On average bushfires in national parks account for less than 5% of the total number of wildfires in NSW and more than twice as many fires start off park and burn onto park than the reverse," he said.


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