Eucalypts threaten second Torrington blaze say residents

Koolie dog breeder Thomas Eveans said the town will live in fear that it could all happen again if government fails to cut back the forest of eucalypts which grow within metres of the town.

Koolie dog breeder Thomas Eveans said the town will live in fear that it could all happen again if government fails to cut back the forest of eucalypts which grow within metres of the town.

Eucalypt is growing literally inside the ruins of Torrington as a community smashed by a bushfire some blame on a lack of firebreaks and bad forest management wants to know when government agencies will cut back the dangerous trees from the edge of their village.

About 16 homes in the isolated village of about 100 residents were smashed by bushfire nearly three months ago and, as of last weekend, still lie where they fell, many of them surrounded by yellow hazard tape.

Local koolie dog breeder Thomas Eveans said the town will live in fear that it could all happen again if government fails to cut back the forest of eucalypts which grow within metres of the town itself, which he said fed last year's blaze.

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Mr Eveans described the bushfire of November 8 as like a fuel air explosive, with massive balls of flame fueled by volatile eucalypt oils bursting over tree tops. He said he watched as an unstoppable wall of flame clearly visible through a pall of smoke clearing three times tree top height charged straight towards them.

"It's (burning by) sucking in the whole air," he said.

"This was a roman candle coming right at us."

While embers spotted all around day became night as he ran inside his home before the unstoppable inferno smashed it to pieces.

"When I went in the house it was dark as, I needed a torch to see what I was trying to find.

"I grabbed a few things I knew I could find that I knew I needed, my medication and script and a couple of other bits."

He lost everything else, from mementos from his 18th birthday to a stamp collection, his grandad's medals, medallions he'd been collecting for his daughter, vehicles and the life of one of his dogs.

Sixteen homes were also lost in the inferno, and it's beyond lucky people weren't killed or injured too, he said. The out-of-control bushfire went on to threaten the New England highway, and forced the evacuation of much of Emmaville days later.

Mr Eveans blames the Australian native trees for the intense heat and ferocity of the blaze. There's a dead eucalypt just metres away from the ruins of his home, with the border of thick forest proper barely a stone's throw away. And the whole village is surrounded by the Torrington State Conservation Area, which is filled with the tree, he said.

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Eucalyptus has for decades been known to be a major fire hazard, with the highly fire-adapted form of myrtle emitting a form of highly-flammable oil that can help fires "crown" into their tree tops.

In turn, fires help promote eucalypt growth by spreading their seeds.

"Every time there's a fire goes through the amount of regeneration of the eucalypt is incredible," said Thomas Eveans.

"You've only got to look through the (destroyed) house over here and there are seedlings coming up in there all over the place, because the heat just disperses the seed far and wide."

Mr Eveans says without government intervention the trees will spread even further, creating a monoculture and setting a ticking time bomb that will grow even larger, lying in wait for the next firestorm.

He wants government to log and replant the State Conservation Area with less flammable trees.

He also blamed government for breaking a promise to cut back the woods to create 20 metre firebreak around the town. They never did it.

Long-time Torrington resident Richard Cork lives about half a kilometre outside Torrington proper, in a forest retreat surrounded on all sides by wrecked trees.

He agreed that building proper fire breaks was the number one priority for the village, to protect them against the next blaze.

But even if the village is made safe, even after the scars have healed, the memories will live on, he said.

"I don't think any of us will ever feel safe. It's like every time we hear a helicopter now it's not about a joy flight, it's about - God where's the smoke coming from now."

The Department of Parks and Wildlife has been contacted for this story.