At least 52 homes have been destroyed in bushfires which swept across northern New South Wales, killing an elderly couple and leaving locals devastated.
There was much-needed rainfall overnight, with about 16mm falling in some fire-affected areas, but the wet conditions mean the use of heavy machinery by crews has had to be suspended for the day.
The Busbys Flat and Drake fires caused the destruction of the 52 homes and that number could rise as assessments continue.
NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman James Morris said while firefighters are still patrolling the areas, they may be stood down later on Saturday if rainfall continues and there is no increased fire activity.
“When we start to see significant rainfall we don’t want to see trucks driving back and forth down some dirt tracks because those roads could become inaccessible and impassable,” he said.
“We have to consider the safety of our crews, who are doing a very important job out there.”
The Busbys Flat fire, which authorities believe was deliberately lit a week ago, remains out of control, while the Drake blaze, which was started over a month ago by a lightning strike, is being controlled. They are two of about 40 fires that have been burning across NSW.
The latter fire claimed the lives of 77-year-old Bob Lindsay and Gwen Hyde, 68. The bodies of the married couple were found in their destroyed Coongbar home on Thursday some two days after fires roared through the region.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has said there’s no timeline for when it will be safe for residents to return to fire-ravaged areas as their teams continue to count the toll of the blazes.
Morris said the relief from weekend rainfall may be shortlived.
“We are keeping an eye on warmer temperatures expected on Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said.