The daughter of an elderly man who lost everything to ravaging bushfires in northern NSW has revealed how a tweet she sent as the fires edged closer to his home managed to save his life.
John Duncan, 83, was trapped when a bushfire ripped through Busbys Flat and the surrounding areas on Tuesday night destroying at least 20 homes.
No longer able to evacuate his Rappsville home, he called his daughter Carol Duncan and told her he planned to stick it out in a steel shed in his backyard.
But Ms Duncan knew his chances of survival inside the shed were slim and jumped online to see what the latest update was.
Recommendation on best place to shelter in Rappville? School would be good but isn't open.— Carol Duncan (@carolduncan) October 8, 2019
“At 4pm, they issued another emergency advice for the Busby's Flat fire so I tweeted the NSW RFS and asked for sheltering advice and they said the firefighters were at the school, along with some residents,” she explained on a GoFundMe page she has since set up for her father.
“The NSW RFS people messaged me, asking where my Dad lived, and sent a truck over to get my dad and his partner out of the shed and across to the school.”
Thank you.— Carol Duncan (@carolduncan) October 8, 2019
I'm safe, but my Dad is 83, unwell, hiding in his shed (opposite the school) - distressed. I can't contact him. :(— Carol Duncan (@carolduncan) October 8, 2019
They're checking on him. I'm so grateful.— Carol Duncan (@carolduncan) October 8, 2019
Firefighters managed to save the couple and bring them to safety before the fires took control of his home. While Ms Duncan said her father had been “incoherent with grief and shock” after losing everything he owned, he was thankful to still have his life.
“So, the RFS people who went and got my Dad and his partner OUT OF THE SHED thanks to Twitter ... saved my Dad's life,” a thankful Ms Duncan wrote.
And while the terrifying ordeal has rocked the small community, Mr Duncan was still able to unearth his Aussie sense of humour in the darkest of times.
“My brother has just spoken to Dad who said to him, "We're fine - we've still got the clothes we're in but the guy next to me is in shorts and thongs ..."
Ms Duncan revealed her father had left Canberra after experiencing bushfires in 2004.
Just 15 years later, and with his health deteriorating, he has lost everything to catastrophic conditions he thought he’d left behind.
“Everything has gone. Even his walking stick,” Ms Duncan explained.
She said an original photo of his mother, who died when he was eight, was hanging on the wall of his home. Thankfully Ms Duncan had previously made a copy for him.
She said her family’s goal is now to do everything they can to support Mr Duncan as well as the community that has been widely destroyed.
“My Dad is a proud man, but he's a classic pensioner battler. My family will do all we can, but he needs a bit of a hand. I hate asking, but I'd do anything for my Dad.”
More than 13,200 hectares have been burned in the area. The fire danger was downgraded to 'watch and act' on Wednesday morning.
An evacuation centre has been set up at St Mary's Catholic College in Casino for those who were forced to flee the Busbys Flat fire.
RFS spokesman Greg Allan told AAP firefighters were not expecting to see a reprieve to the hot and windy conditions fanning the fire until Wednesday.
A blaze at Long Gully Road at Drake, which has been burning for five weeks, has destroyed more than 78,000 hectares. The advice level is 'watch and act'.
About 21 fires are burning across NSW, and 15 are deemed serious.
Firefighters are hoping cooler weather conditions from Thursday and expected rain on Friday will help with the firefighting effort.
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