WE WERE THERE: Lightning strike sparks 600ha Lennox inferno
WE WERE THERE is a series that revisits The Northern Star's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Northern Rivers over the past 20 years. Today, we look back at the paper's reporting of the wildfire that tore between Lennox and Broken Head in 2013.
LIGHTNING sparked a bushfire in coastal scrub between Lennox Head and Broken Head on Sunday, December 29, 2013, threatening homes and burning out almost 600 hectares.
The strike near the corner of the Coast Road and Tobin Close, just north of Lennox Head, was fanned by southerly winds which saw the blaze quickly spread.
The Northern Star was covering the blaze from the moment it began, with more than three hours of continuous rolling coverage updating the progress of the blaze and evacuations, including interactive maps showing readers where the fire was burning and where it was headed.
We followed the initial fire emergency as firefighters worked desperately to beat it back, retiring for the night when the fire was officially downgraded shortly before midnight and then heading out first thing the next morning to see how evacuees were faring at Byron High School.
We stayed with the story after the fire was controlled and then extinguished weeks later, checking with residents to see how they fared and honouring the firefighters who had worked so hard to save homes and communities.
Within hours of the fire starting, the strong southerly had driven the bushfire north across an area of about 200 hectares, threatening homes at Bundaleer Road.
More than 40 fire fighters and two aircraft battled the blaze, managing to save the homes without any damage to property.
By 11pm on December 29, weather conditions had eased but more than 40 RFS volunteers remained at the Linnaeus Estate throughout the night to monitor the situation.
An evacuation centre was set up at Byron High School to accommodate people fleeing the fire.
Evacuees from Bundaleer Road, Linnaeus Estate and Broken Head Road spent the night at the high school.
Among the evacuees was holiday-maker Chris Schindler, of Tasmania, and her grandchildren Elli and William Fearn, of Bowen in Queensland.
Mrs Schindler and the boys had been visiting relatives at Broken Head Road.
The Coast Road at Lennox Head remained closed on Monday as fire fighters back burned to create a fire break to contain the blaze and prevent it from threatening homes.
Owen Lynn of Bundaleer Rd said the fire could have been prevented if landowners were still allowed to back burn, which ceased 15 years ago.
"I've lived here for 67 years and the farmers around here always cooperated to maintain and dozer the fire trails and back burn every winter," he said.
Grab tomorrow's Northern Star to see how we covered the brutal 2012 murder of Edward "Ned" Kelly at Broadwater and the ensuing manhunt for, and trial of, his killer, Jonathon Stenberg.