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Human spirit unshaken as inferno claims lives and homes in northern New South Wales

Lost it all: Rappville resident John Duncan looks at the remains of his home. Photo: Carol Duncan
Lost it all: Rappville resident John Duncan looks at the remains of his home. Photo: Carol Duncan

RAPPVILLE resident John Duncan, 83, lost his home in the early October blazes in northern New South Wales.

His daughter Carol, a Newcastle City councillor, saved him and his partner Cassie, who were hiding in a steel shed, by tweeting to the Rural Fire Service.

Mr Duncan’s home was one of 45 burned down in the bushfires in Rappville.

Those affected were accommodated temporarily in nearby Casino and Lismore.

Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan toured the destruction in Rappville and said on Facebook it was “heart-wrenching”.

“This community has been through what can only be described as a nightmare,” he said.

Mr Hogan said ongoing stock safety was an issue because so many fences had been destroyed in the fires.

Vinnies has confirmed that all monetary donations made in local stores will be directed to the bushfire relief effort.

St Vincent de Paul Society NSW chief executive officer Jack de Groot said while the organisation welcomed all donations of good-quality items, giving money was the most effective way to help immediately in the wake of the fires. 

The Rural Fire Service confirmed that 89 homes were destroyed across the state since the bushfire season began, with Rappville, Drake, Busbys Flat and Tenterfield being particularly affected.

“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the fires, especially those who have lost their homes, as well as the families of the couple who tragically lost their lives this week,” Mr de Groot said.

The two deceased, Robert Lindsey, 77, and Gwenda Hyde, 68, died in a home in Coongbar. 

The wider Ewingar community mourned their loss, and they were remembered as well-respected members of the community. 

NSW Rural Fire Service also stated their livestock at their property did not survive or were seriously injured in the blaze.

Even with the devastation, the fires couldn’t destroy the human spirit.

“The events of this week have been deeply distressing, but I’ve also heard from our people on the ground that it’s been moving to see these communities come together at a time of need,” Mr de Groot said. 

“We commend the rapid response from government and non-government agencies, the Rural Fire Service, and the broader community.”

Mr de Groot said Vinnies was “acutely aware” the same people hardest hit by the fires were already suffering through drought for months.

“Vinnies has been helping at the fire registration centre at St Mary’s Catholic College in Casino, as well as in the communities of Rapp-ville, Busbys Flat, Drake and Tenterfield,” he said.

“If you’re having a hard time, I encourage you to reach out to our team or drop in to your nearest Vinnies Shop.”

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