The West

A blaze north of Carnarvon has burnt more than 1000 hectares of scrub and destroyed buildings at an old abandoned mission about 10km out of town.

Firefighters near Carnarvon have been working since Sunday to control the fire, which is threatening plantations along North River Road.

Homes are not currently under threat but could be if wind conditions change.

Volunteers and Department of Fire and Emergency Services officers are battling to keep the blaze in containment lines through plus 40C heat and "howling" easterlies, DFES Incident Controller Stephen McDonald said.

"Up till last night we were consolidating fire breaks today we're tracking the northern edge of the fire, there's still small sleepers and embers that have the potential to escape and cause us grief," he said.

It's destroyed about 10 abandoned buildings, including homes and sheds at the old Yinggarda Mission which has variously served as a hostel and senior's care facility since it ceased operating as a Christian mission.

Mrs Merle Dann, nee Lapthorne, a Thadgari elder on her father's side, said she had fond memories of the old mission then run by the Church of Christ.

She arrived at the mission as a seven or eight year old in the early nineteen fifties when her parents working on the nearby Maroonah Station were told they needed to send her to school, she said.

"We had to walk from the mission itself down a couple of hundred yards to where the school was situated," she said.

"As you started to grow up a bit more, we looked after the next load of children, we had to make their beds, get their kids ready for school."

She said she had fond memories of teachers including Mrs Fishers and Mrs Hammers as well as the cook, who taught the children domestic disciplines.

"I had a good upbringing, good education, the only thing I lacked at the mission was we weren't allowed to practice or sing our Yinggarda or Thadgari language," she said.

Many people in the Indigenous community in Carnarvon have links to the mission.

Mrs Dann, whose 40 year nursing career has taken her all over the country before she returned to Carnarvon, said there had been rumours of abuse at the site but she had personally never seen any evidence of it.

She said some members of the local community had pushed for the site to be handed back to the Aboriginal community for use as a drug and alcohol treatment facility or school.

"It's sad the fire destroyed that, it's hard the Church of Christ didn't hand that back four years ago when we asked for it," she said.

A 2010 Carnarvon Shire tourism strategy document identified the old mission as a potential short stay camping/RV site for short-term accommodation but the plan did not progress.

The site is currently owned by the Australian Churches of Christ Indigenous Ministries.

The West Australian

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