'Mate, I've Got Nothing To Worry About': Facing Bushfires With A Stubby In Hand
In the face of the roaring flames, some Salt Ash residents are remarkably keeping their cool.
A bushfire emergency was declared in the NSW Hunter region on Friday morning as stronger-than-expected winds put dozens of properties under threat.
While standing across from his threatened property on Lemon Tree Passage Road, Nathan "Ned" Edwards watched on calmly with a beer in hand.
“Mate, I’ve got nothing to worry about," Edwards told 10 News First reporter Steve Hart.
"With all these firefighters here, they’re awesome. They’ve been looking after us all day, the house is under control, I’m confident that they’re going to get through it.”
It's a classic Australian response to an equally Australian problem, not to mention a glistening review for the 200 firefighters working to contain the blaze.
Tania Craig, who lives on the property across from Edwards, shared her neighbour's composure and trust -- albeit without sipping on a XXXX Gold.
“The guys were great," she said.
"When I had to ring the fire brigade they were here within 10 minutes, we had fire trucks everywhere. Then we had the helicopter bombing and stuff like that so the guys are doing such a fantastic job for the community.”
Craig watched the flames as they made their way towards her house, eventually getting within 100 metres of the property.
After two of her kids packed up the family's dogs, cats and chooks and headed up the road to safety, she and her husband stayed behind to do what they could to protect their home.
“Well what else can you do? You know we’ve all got to get in and help, it’s the community and our home.”
The fast-moving fires, burning north of Newcastle, are being strengthened by wind gusts of up to 90km/h and have blackened more than 1,300 hectares.
As well as in Salt Ash, homes in Campvale and Port Stephens also look to be in danger.
“We’ve been keeping watch of the whole property all day, there’s 50 acres out there and the wind turned for the worst," Edwards said.
"So it wasn’t too bad at the start but now it’s getting a bit more serious, but these guys have got it all under control.”
Emergency services have taken to the ground and sky in an attempt to slow it down, even enlisting Gaia -- a 737 Large Air Tanker on its maiden firefighting mission.
But the wind may prove too much even for hulking jet, with the NSW Rural Fire Service warning severe turbulence is making it difficult for the aircraft to fly.
For residents, the choice between staying to help and leaving their properties is a struggle.
“It is very frightening, very scary. We were watching them (the flames) earlier down the back, watch them move up towards the house," Craig recounted.
“We’ll evacuate. If it gets to the point where we’ve gotta go we will go so, we don’t have a choice.”