Firefighters who were battling a blaze which tore through the small country town of Balmoral ran out of water as the fire front was approaching.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the town – home to about 400 people – was decimated during the fires on Thursday and then again on Saturday.
Brendon O’Connor, the captain of the Balmoral Rural Fire Brigade, told ABC Radio the village runs on limited tank water.
They were trying to fight two separate fire fronts with tanks filled with water, but they were quickly drained due to the enormity of the blaze.
Burnt-out property is seen following the Green Wattle Creek Fire at Buxton, NSW, near Balmoral
Rural Fire Service (RFS) crews work on a blaze threatening homes along the Old Hume Highway on Thursday December 19
‘It was terrible. We had eight fire appliances dealing with the fire storm and no water left,’ Mr O’Connor said.
‘The tanks and town had been drained. We had to wait for another tank to make it in and restock us.’
But by that point, the unpredictable winds had picked up on both sides of the village and the volunteers were flanked by flames.
‘We’re only a small rural community,’ Mr O’Connor said. ‘Well over 90 per cent of the bushland within the village area is gone.’
Burnt-out property is seen following the Green Wattle Creek Fire on Friday
Fire crews were defending properties while their own homes were at risk nearby (Pictured in Buxton)
The town had about 150 homes last week and has since lost about 18 of them to the fires.
One of the volunteers who was working to save a home watched his own further down the street go up in flames.
‘He was saving another home and he watched his own burn down,’ the fire captain said.
Mr O’Connor’s own home was also damaged in the fires.
The town is currently without power but most people chose to evacuate anyway. They’re hoping to be let back in at some point on Monday to properly assess the damage.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speak to the media during a visit to the Wollondilly Emergency Control Centre in Sydney, Sunday, December 22
Mr O’Connor said in his 20 years of experience fighting fires he’d never seen conditions so catastrophic.
‘From the 2001 bushfires which also came through Balmoral, to Black Saturday and the Canberra fires, I’ve been to most of the big ones,’ he said.
‘They were all devastating, but I’ve never experienced fire activity like this.’
Another of the volunteers who risked his life battling the blaze said he found comments made by Ms Berejiklian offensive during an interview with 2GB radio.
Ms Berejiklian previously said ‘there isn’t much left’ of the township of Balmoral after the fire razed much of it to the ground.
The volunteer, known only as Greg, said Balmoral ‘has not been wiped off the map’.
‘It was horrific… It is not almost gone. It is all still there.
‘The suggestion that we failed in defending that village… I don’t know how the other guys [in the fire crew] take that, but me personally, I’m quite offended at the suggestion that we lost that village because we didn’t,’ he said.
A bushfire burns on a property in Balmoral, 150 kilometres southwest of Sydney on December 19
A mega-blaze ripped through Bilpin and the Blue Mountains on Saturday night with intense heat and speed
A photographer who was on the scene of a fire in Bilpin, NSW, on Saturday night told Daily Mail Australia more than 40,000 litres of water was required to save just one home.
Volunteer firefighter and home owner, Mark Jol chose not to evacuate his home in Bilpin as fast-moving fires approached this weekend.
He and his son Andrew – who is also a volunteer RFS member – were well prepared to battle the blaze.
They used 40,000 litres of water to save their property alone – offering a stark reminder about just how much water firefighters need to fight the blazes.
‘All of that water came from their own tanks,’ the photographer said. ‘They were well prepared, but all that water was used just on the initial fire front which passed through.
‘They had sprinklers fitted and switched on around the house, in the car port… It really was a well prepared home, it was covered in corrugated iron and surrounded by well cleared out space and it survived.’
Mr Jol believes another dwelling further down on his land wouldn’t have survived. Conditions were too extreme for him to go properly check it out.
Intense weather conditions on Saturday propelled a mega-blaze covering 460,000 hectares from Gospers Mountain through to the Blue Mountains.
Pictures show the devastating conditions firefighters were forced to work in, as a blanket of orange smoke settled on the Blue Mountains and embers flew in every direction