Bushfire at Coolagolite
A bushfire near Coolagolite has destroyed three homes but the risk has reduced. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
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Three homes lost in destructive NSW bushfire

October 4, 2023

Three homes have been destroyed but it will take days to gain a full picture of the damage caused by bushfire on the NSW south coast.

Early assessments of the destruction by the Coolagolite fire began on Wednesday afternoon, with the Rural Fire Service quickly counting the loss of three houses.

Their location was unclear but online RFS mapping showed the firefront passed over several residences in Cuttagee and Barragga Bay, south of tourist haven Bermagui.

Scattered showers and cooler weather helped bring the fire risk level down after scorching conditions a day earlier.

Work to contain the blaze and remove hazards was ongoing, the RFS said.

“We certainly wouldn’t want the (assessment) crews on the ground and having trees falling, for example,” spokeswoman Victoria Quested told AAP.

“So it’s not just a matter of putting the fire out.”

The blaze continued to burn near homes on Wednesday night after torching an area the size of Sydney Harbour in an afternoon.

However quick-acting locals had heeded emergency warnings and enacted their individual bushfire survival plans, Premier Chris Minns said.

Visiting an evacuation centre in Bega, he urged those travelling to the beach during the final week of school holidays to stay abreast of warnings.

“We want people to have fun, get into regional communities, spend money, have fun with their children but it’s important that you understand what those (bushfire) risks are,” Mr Minns said.

“Be prepared – be prepared for a horror summer.”

Evacuated residents, including about 65 people put up in caravan parks and motels, were asked to steer clear of the area until it was safe, Bega Valley mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said.

The sight of smoke also triggered mental health concerns nearly four years on from the devastating Black Summer bushfires.

Early in 2020, Bermagui residents were forced to retreat to the water as bushfires surrounded the town in tinderbox conditions.

“We’re aware these problems may have been laying there from the 2019/20 fires and we want people to seek help,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who joined Mr Minns in thanking emergency service workers in Bega and Bermagui, said he could “smell” the impact the fires had.

“And that would be having a triggering response for people who went through such a traumatic time during the summer of 2019/20,” he told reporters.

Damp conditions that swept the fire ground early on Wednesday were expected to return on Thursday with rain highly likely.

Conditions also improved in many other parts of NSW as crews battled 56 bush and grass fires, down from more than 90 on Tuesday.

There will be no total fire bans across NSW on Thursday with below-average maximum temperatures forecast.

Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and some northern parts of the state are subject to high fire danger.

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