There is little left of Cobargo’s main street after a bushfire roared down from the mountains and destroyed its historic wooden buildings, an unknown number of homes and left two people dead.
Cobargo Hotel Motel publican David Allen managed to save his property with the help of local firefighters but many more were not so lucky.
He fought back tears as he described how the Badga Forest Road fire swept up the main street from the dry creek bed early this morning with a roar and a crack as it impacted.
“It came up through the creek bed, the trees in the creekbed are very dry and it got in the back of them and leapt across the road, and all the old wooden buildings, got ’em,” he said.
He said about six to eight shops and lots of houses were lost.
Most of the heritage town’s 770 residents had fled ahead of the fire, heeding NSW RFS warnings to leave.
“People got out with what they could; there was nothing they could do,” Mr Allen said.
“There were plenty of warnings. My phone kept beeping. They couldn’t have done any more – the fireys and service people,” he said.
But Mr Allen decided to stay, and with help from local firefighters, was able to put out spot fires and save the pub.
“We’re very lucky, some very good guys helped us. We were lucky but a lot of people weren’t so lucky,” he said.
A father and son perished trying to defend their property at Wandella west of Cobargo. It is believed they were putting out spot fires when they were hit by a fireball.
Mr Allen said his own father had stayed to defend his farm and had saved it but many buildings had been destroyed.
He said the town was smoky and eerie now (Tuesday afternoon) with all fires extinguished, townspeople evacuated to Bermagui, where power has been lost and the sewerage works knocked out, or Narooma, and crews mopping up.
“It’s pretty OK now, there’s not much left to burn,” he said.
But no one knows for sure how many properties the fire has taken.