Cops to probe 'heinous' northern NSW blaze
Firefighters battle bushfires in Busbys Flat, northern NSW (AAP Image/Jason O'Brien)
Police will investigate a suspicious blaze that destroyed at least 10 homes in a rural hamlet in northern NSW.
Authorities believe the fire that ripped through the village of Rappville this week may have been deliberately lit, in what NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott has described as a "bastard act".
NSW Police and fire investigators have formed a strike force to determine the cause of the fire.
"In the absence of any other obvious cause, we always default to being suspicious, and we work through a very thorough process," NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the Nine Network.
"We've got to call it out - it's a heinous crime, a criminal act."
Assessment teams are still assessing how many properties have been lost or damaged in the blaze, which is believed to have started in the Busbys Flat area on Friday night.
Across the Busbys Flat and Drake fires, which have joined together in recent days, at least 21 homes have been destroyed.
Further buildings have been damaged, but the RFS says numbers will rise as more properties are inspected.
Mr Fitzsimmons said 34 bushfires continue to burn across NSW, eight of which remain out of control. However, all fires are currently at an "advice" alert level after a number of emergency warnings were on Wednesday downgraded.
Allan Robertson lost his Rappville home and was left with the clothes he was wearing, his phone and "my worst thongs".
He said he was uninsured and his partner was in palliative care.
"It was just like a massive fireball. There was nothing you could do. The heat was horrendous," he told Network Ten.
The NSW RFS said a number of residents were treated for minor burns and breathing difficulties.
Some locals were still unaccounted for on Wednesday but authorities were working to get in touch with all residents forced to flee their properties.
The RFS says residents likely won't be able to return home for a number of days given trees are down across roads and power lines are on the ground.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance tweeted that stretches of rail line had been damaged by fire, with the Rappville Rail Bridge destroyed.
📷 Some of the aftermath of the devastating bushfires currently burning in Northern NSW.— Andrew Constance MP (@AndrewConstance) October 8, 2019
Stretches of the North Coast rail line have crippled by fire, with the Rappville Rail Bridge destroyed.
Thinking of all those affected by bushfires across the state. pic.twitter.com/RKj00RvMwP
The RFS also warned that even though better conditions are forecast for Thursday, the fires could flare again.
© AAP 2019