Tabulam fires caused widespread devastation over a 7 day period.
Tabulam fires caused widespread devastation over a 7 day period.

ONE YEAR ON: Look back at devastating Tabulam bushfires

ON FEBRUARY 12 it will be one year since a fire burning near Tabulam and the Bruxner Highway was upgraded to Emergency Warning status.

This fire signalled the start of an unprecendeted year for bushfires across Northern NSW and around Australia.

The Tingha fire was burning at the same time and eventually wiped out 17,000 hectares of land.

For Tabulam residents the threat of the fire heading towards the town was very real and ultimately the racecourse experienced damage, signifying just how close the actual town came to a full-blown emergency..

By 3.32pm that Tuesday the fire was spreading towards Jumbullum Aboriginal settlement and by 4.42pm people were advised to evacuate as a precaution.

A Fire and Rescue NSW spokeswoman confirmed at the time that at least one of their crews had also been tasked to the fire.

More crews from Ballina, Casino, Brunswick Heads and Grafton were also tasked to the fire.

By 8pm that evening Richmond Police District Chief Inspector Nicole Bruce was quoted as saying three houses, some outbuildings and several vehicles had been destroyed, but fortunately no lives were lost or people injured.

Insp Bruce said two evacuation centres were set up, one at Tabulam and one at Mallanganee.

That evacuation centre at Mallanganee saw many residents from Jumbullum gather there, waiting on news of whether fire would ravage the settlement.

By 11am on the Wednesday the fire had burnt more than 3900 hectares.

The bushfire burning in the area of Jennings, on the NSW and Queensland border, north of Tenterfield, had burnt more than 15,400ha hectares by Wednesday.

Local crews were also joined by crews from Queensland after the Tabulam fire flared up on Friday afternoon.

Queensland Rural Fire Service strike team leader Andrew Rose said he was part of a 33-strong crew, 10 light and medium appliances plus two support vehicles and a tanker.

Firefighters continued to battle the blaze through to Monday, February 18.

NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Paul Best said at the time that firefighters continued to work hard to contain the Tabulam fire.

Insp Best was quoted as saying 18 aircraft and 300 firefighters were battling the three major fires across the state at Tabulam, Wallangarra and Tingha.

The fire ended up destroying 18 homes, 49 outbuildings and 7600ha of bushland.

A 40-year-old mum of eight, Natasha Spiller, faced a hearing on the charge of intentionally lighting a fire and being reckless to its spread.

Mr Linden convicted Spiller and sentenced her to an 18-month intensive corrections order, which will expire in March 2021.


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