Bush fires have raced across New South Wales this week, with potentially a hundred or more houses lost within a couple of days.

One life has also been lost, in the Lake Munmorah area on the NSW Central Coast, where a man died defending his home.


Springwood, in the lower Blue Mountains, has been the hardest hit. The Rev Steve Young, senior minister at Springwood ANglican Churches, says dozens of houses have been lost in the area, with between 10 and 12 homes lost in his congregation alone. The church property itself is undamaged.

“The helicopters are still buzzing around, and there are still people standing anxiously in front of their houses with hoses,” says Mr Young. “The fire’s still just making its way around the place, there are a few fires actually. Yesterday it was just to the east of Springwood and Winmalee, now there’s one to the west that’s moving in a different direction… It’s still chaos, really.

“We’ve had a lot of offers of help from our own parishioners, as well as from elsewhere, so I’ve been trying to co ordinate pastoral care of people who’ve suffered loss, as well as all the offers of help. We’ve been collecting money, packs of staples, and when things calm down we can get to work distributing them, but it’s hard to track people down, ‘cause if they’ve lost their home they’re not going to stick around.”

The latest RFS report confirms that 81 homes in the Springwood Winmalee area have been lost, with another 37 damaged, with only 30 percent of the fireground assessed.

Mt Victoria

A separate fire near Mt Victoria has also destroyed several properties there. The Rev John Gaunt, rector of Blackheath Anglican Churches, including Mt Victoria, says one lady in his congregation has had her home severely damaged.

He also says that the fire there is mostly under control now, with "mopping up" occurring today.

"In terms of the relief effort at this point, we're feeling our way. We've had a few offers of help from others, so it's a matter of see whether and what kind of need is there," he said.


Another fire began near the State Mine near Lithgow, and is currently moving east towards Bilpin.

The senior minister of Lithgow Anglican Church, the Rev Mark Smith, was unable to be reached at time of writing. The RFS reports the fire is currently being controlled.


A fire burning in the Southern Highlands that caused the evacuation of the villages of Balmoral, Bargo and Yanderra, amongst others last night has moved east, and is believed to have left little to no property damage in those towns.

The Rev Kevin Flanagan, rector of Wollondilly Anglican Church, which includes the town of Bargo, says the fire was clearly visible yesterday and last night from Tahmoor, but appears to have moved on between Bargo and Yenderra, leaving both villages largely untouched.

“For a while it look like there would be trouble, but it just missed us, by the grace of God,” he said.

According to Mr Flanagan, most residents of Bargo and Yendarra have today been allowed to move back into their homes.

For Mr Young in Springwood, he says the goal for now is simply to be praying for those still defending their homes and those who have lost them, as well as to help in concrete ways.

“A number of churches from Sydney have already sent money to our church for distribution, which is great,” says Mr Young. “It allows us to give cash to people to meet short term needs... It’s good to help them like that straight away, because costs will only add up in the weeks ahead. It takes a while for insurance to kick in, so we’ve been doing that already, straight away. And longer term, there will be deep pastoral needs. For some it will be practical, others it will be emotional, but there will be deep scars from this.”

Anglicare Disaster Recovery Teams have been operating in Mountains regions, outer Sydney and Newcastle to assist with support services, particularly working at evacuation centres. An Archbishop of Sydney's Anglican Aid appeal has also been opened, with funds going to support those families who have lost their homes in the fires.


For complete and up to date fire information, please consult the NSW Rural Fire Service website at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au

For information on the Anglican Aid Appeal, read here.

For more information on the work of the Anglicare Disaster Recovery teams, read here.


Image: Dylan's World, under Creative Commons License.