Stuart Austin has lost several farm sheds and thousands of acres of farmland. Photo by Amy Johnson.
Stuart Austin has lost several farm sheds and thousands of acres of farmland. Photo by Amy Johnson.

UNDER THREAT:’It’s like everyone’s world has stopped’

WITH farm sheds burnt to the ground and thousands of acres of charred paddocks before him, Stuart Austin is struggling to come to terms with the impact of the unprecedented fires west of Dorrigo.

Known as the Bees Nest fire it has already burnt out more that 93,000 hectares.

Stuart’s property on Goddards Road at Hernani came under attack on the night of September 6 with strong winds fanning flames - catching many off guard.

“With 60km an hour winds behind it, there was a bloody lot going on. It wasn’t a pleasant thing to be coordinating.”

Thousands of acres of farmland have been destroyed. Photo by Amy Johnson.
Thousands of acres of farmland have been destroyed. Photo by Amy Johnson.

He is thankful for the efforts of firefighters but has described a lack of local knowledge behind the coordinated response.

“Not having a local point of contact made it hard to know what to do. There were a couple of local fire brigades doing a lot of work but it’s so rare to have fires out here.

“The advice we got was to call triple 0 but time is critical when you’ve got such strong winds behind it.”

Dorrigo woman Amy Johnson has been documenting the Bees Nest fire.
Dorrigo woman Amy Johnson has been documenting the Bees Nest fire.

With approximately half of the 4,500-hectare property destroyed by the blaze, he has made the gut-wrenching decision to sell off half his stock.

He says there hasn’t been a major fire out that way since the early 1990s.

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With the Bees Nest blaze expected to burn for many weeks to come, Stuart is keeping a close eye on the situation.

“We had a flare up yesterday but for now we are out of danger; touch wood,” he said on Tuesday morning.

The Bees Nest fire west of Dorrigo has left a trail of destruction.
The Bees Nest fire west of Dorrigo has left a trail of destruction.

Dorrigo local and keen photographer Amy Johnson took the photos of Stuart’s property after the flames swept through.

“We were so lucky that our farm was not in immediate danger, but our neighbours were. A change of wind could put us in the firing line,” Amy said.

“It’s like everyone’s world has stopped and we’re somewhere else.

“To everyone affected and still being affected please ask for help, there are so many people willing to support you in every way possible. I am so proud to call Dorrigo my home.”