Recovery centre set up as Tabulam starts to rebuild
TABULAM residents are starting the long journey to recovery, as fires continue to burn threatening properties west of the village.
At least eight structures were destroyed by the fire, which has been burning since Tuesday, and hundreds of people have been left displaced and uncertain of what they will be returning to once they go home.
As they wait, Richmond Police District Acting Superintendent Cameron Lindsay said a recovery centre has been set up for those impacted by the fire to provide immediate assistance.
"Today we've started looking at moving into a recovery phase after the RFS have indicated the risk and the threats to Tabulam have now passed," Acting Supt Lindsay said.
"We've set up a recovery centre in the Tabulam village within the community hall there.
"People who have been effected by the fire can contact the services (at the hall). We're looking at providing food hampers because one of the biggest issues out there is the lack of power to the township and the people and their perishable food has gone off.
"We're putting bins out there, particularly in the Jabullam mission where they can get rid of that off food. They'll have access to family community services to look at financial support in the short period.
"The local lands services has set up support areas so we've got supplies for livestocks in the area. That's in the rural supplies office (in Tabulam) and people can access food for their stock."
The fire was officially declared a natural disaster on Wednesday, allowing those services to be made available.
As the fire continues, NSW RFS Northern Rivers zone Inspector Boyd Townsend said about 50 firefighters were battling the blaze in the hopes of containing it within days.
"Currently the fire is still out of control status, which means we have active fires that can't be contained and that is mostly in the north-west area of this fire," he said.
"Wednesday night's southerly change brought a whole set of new challenges and what we did see was the fire progress very quickly north to Old Bruxner Rd.
"The main concern now is that north-western corner, there's a whole series of properties in there that we need to protect.
"We're looking at the area around Paddys Flat Road, Sugarbag Road and Old Bruxner Road.
"There's still a lot of work to be done in that area."
Inspector Townsend said Thursday's conditions were better for crews to try to contain the fire but there's still a long way to go.
"We're looking forward to cooler days," he said.
"Today while we haven't had any rain on the fire front, it is much cooler and the winds are abating and the humidity is much lower which is reducing fire conditions substantially.
"They're going to be working there for days before we reach containment."
A 40-year-old woman has been charged with allegedly setting alight rubbish inside a large steel container in her backyard about 8am on Tuesday.
"This woman has been interviewed and we will allege that she left the fire unattended for a period and that fire started a lot of these fires now," Acting Supt Lindsay said.
"A crime scene was established there on Wednesday and we've had forensics services there."
The woman has been released on bail and will appear at Casino Court on February 27.
Meanwhile, efforts to return people to the Jabullam community and other properties is top priority for police.
"The immediate issue is getting power back on in the mission," Acting Supt Lindsay said.
"We have NBN offering free wifi and internet services to people in that area and they'll be able to access those things in the recovery centre.
"We have been told that power and services will be back on to the community today, if that's the case we are hoping people can return today into that village. Over 120 people were given short-term accommodation because of these fires and they have that accommodation again tonight if need be however a majority of them will be able to return today."