Taree edgy, eerie as NSW fire flares again

Hannah Higgins
There's an eerie atmosphere in Taree as bushfire smoke envelops the NSW town

Evacuees at the Taree showground are begging loved ones to flee a dangerous fire raging nearby, three days after a fatal blaze struck north of the town.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has issued an emergency alert for an out-of-control bushfire at Hillville, southwest of Taree, burning across almost 20,000 hectares.

At Taree showground, evacuees were frantically trying to reach loved ones on Tuesday afternoon, begging them to flee the Hillville fire.

Taree show society president Hans Rooimans says there is an "edgy" atmosphere among evacuees, who watched as fire tore through Hillville on Friday.

"We just had some bad news then, people that live out Hillville way, it's caught alight again," he told AAP on Tuesday afternoon.

"It's already had a fire through it, but it's caught alight again ... that's when it becomes hard."

The body of Julie Fletcher, 63, was found in a burnt-out house on Saturday afternoon after Friday's bushfire at Johns River, north of Taree.

Mr Rooimans, who is also vice president of the Manning River Lions Club, said he and other club members were hosting a camp for disabled children when they were forced to evacuate on Friday.

They immediately took the camp's food preparations down to the Taree showgrounds for others who had been evacuated.

On Tuesday thick smoke smothered the showground, which is a temporary home to about 80 people.

Some evacuees at the showground have already lost everything.

There was an eerie feeling lingering around the showground on Tuesday morning as evacuees anticipated catastrophic fire conditions.

"It's a bit edgy today," Mr Rooimans said.

"On Friday it was like a cloud building up from the ground and going to turn into a big fireball, that's how bad it was. We reckon it would have been close to a firestorm."

Sharon Chamberlain turns to her 19-year-old daughter in the evacuation centre at the Taree showgrounds and for the fourth time since Friday tells her the news they've been dreading to hear.

"I'll be honest with you now Jasmine, we just got another alert for home," she said to her daughter.

"It's three kilometres away."

Sharon was feeding the evacuated horses at the showgrounds when she first heard news of the fire on Tuesday.

The horses were left by people who were out defending their homes from the Hillville fire.

"You just think, how long is your luck going to last," she told AAP.

"When you lock the door for the last time and you walk away, and you don't know if it's going to be there when you get back that's one of the hardest things.

"How much more are we expected to take."

Feeding the horses alongside Sharon is Jenny Lakeman, who began evacuating her family and animals from their home in Pampoolah on Saturday morning after nervously waiting out a night of fires.

Her husband is still at the home, working to make sure it has its best chance of surviving Tuesday's blaze.

She and her kids have been sleeping in their horse float since Saturday.

"It's just s***, you can't cop a break," she said.

"And every time you think it's moving away it just backtracks and it comes back."

Jenny said she knew she made the right decision leaving, but said it had been heartbreaking deciding which animals to take on that first trip out.

She is desperately trying to remain in contact with her husband to relay the fire messages coming through to her phone.

"As much as I want to go home, if we were there and the fire came he'd be protecting us instead of trying to get out," she said.

"But we are probably lucky we still have our lives, we're still together, some people have lost (everything)."