Photos taken from Pat Morton lookout last night between 7 and 8  by Gary Patterson.
Photos taken from Pat Morton lookout last night between 7 and 8 by Gary Patterson. Contributed

WE WERE THERE: Lightning strike sparks 600ha Lennox inferno

WE WERE THERE is a series that revisits The Northern Star's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Northern Rivers over the past 20 years. Today, we look back at the paper's reporting of the wildfire that tore between Lennox and Broken Head in 2013.

LIGHTNING sparked a bushfire in coastal scrub between Lennox Head and Broken Head on Sunday, December 29, 2013, threatening homes and burning out almost 600 hectares.

The strike near the corner of the Coast Road and Tobin Close, just north of Lennox Head, was fanned by southerly winds which saw the blaze quickly spread.

Photo taken by The Northern Star photographer Patrick Gorbunovs on Monday (his day off – what dedication!).
Photo taken by The Northern Star photographer Patrick Gorbunovs on Monday (his day off – what dedication!). Patrick Gorbunovs

The Northern Star was covering the blaze from the moment it began, with more than three hours of continuous rolling coverage updating the progress of the blaze and evacuations, including interactive maps showing readers where the fire was burning and where it was headed.

Holiday-makers Chris Schindler of Tasmania with her grandsons Eilli and William Fearn of Bowen, Queensland, at the bushfire evacuation centre at Byron High.
Holiday-makers Chris Schindler of Tasmania with her grandsons Eilli and William Fearn of Bowen, Queensland, at the bushfire evacuation centre at Byron High. Megan Kinninment

We followed the initial fire emergency as firefighters worked desperately to beat it back, retiring for the night when the fire was officially downgraded shortly before midnight and then heading out first thing the next morning to see how evacuees were faring at Byron High School.

GALLERY: Images from the Lennox Head fire

GALLERY: The devastation after the fire

We stayed with the story after the fire was controlled and then extinguished weeks later, checking with residents to see how they fared and honouring the firefighters who had worked so hard to save homes and communities.

Within hours of the fire starting, the strong southerly had driven the bushfire north across an area of about 200 hectares, threatening homes at Bundaleer Road.

The Coast Road closed off with fire very close to road Monday afternoon. Photo Contributed by Rachel Martin
The Coast Road closed off with fire very close to road Monday afternoon. Photo Contributed by Rachel Martin Contributed

More than 40 fire fighters and two aircraft battled the blaze, managing to save the homes without any damage to property.

By 11pm on December 29, weather conditions had eased but more than 40 RFS volunteers remained at the Linnaeus Estate throughout the night to monitor the situation.

Photo taken by Emily J Rooney on Monday night
Photo taken by Emily J Rooney on Monday night Contributed

An evacuation centre was set up at Byron High School to accommodate people fleeing the fire.

Evacuees from Bundaleer Road, Linnaeus Estate and Broken Head Road spent the night at the high school.

Clunes RFS Fire fighter Steven Battistuzzi Putting out a spotm Fire at the Lennox Head fires on Tuesday. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star
Clunes RFS Fire fighter Steven Battistuzzi Putting out a spotm Fire at the Lennox Head fires on Tuesday. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star Doug Eaton

Among the evacuees was holiday-maker Chris Schindler, of Tasmania, and her grandchildren Elli and William Fearn, of Bowen in Queensland.

Lennox Head Bush Fire Tuesday. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star
Lennox Head Bush Fire Tuesday. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star Doug Eaton

Mrs Schindler and the boys had been visiting relatives at Broken Head Road.

The Coast Road at Lennox Head remained closed on Monday as fire fighters back burned to create a fire break to contain the blaze and prevent it from threatening homes.

RFS Fire fighters on Fire trail at the Lennox Head fires on Tuesday. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star
RFS Fire fighters on Fire trail at the Lennox Head fires on Tuesday. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star Doug Eaton

Owen Lynn of Bundaleer Rd said the fire could have been prevented if landowners were still allowed to back burn, which ceased 15 years ago.

Ashleigh Jordan, Dad Martin, Mum Michelle, and Bailey Jordan of Tobin Close Lennox Head, the Bush Fire came within 50 meters of the Jordan property. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star
Ashleigh Jordan, Dad Martin, Mum Michelle, and Bailey Jordan of Tobin Close Lennox Head, the Bush Fire came within 50 meters of the Jordan property. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star Doug Eaton

"I've lived here for 67 years and the farmers around here always cooperated to maintain and dozer the fire trails and back burn every winter," he said.

Images taken from the Air T&G; helicopter, which was involved in water bombing operations at the Lennox Head fire on Monday. Photo Contributed by Wayne McIntosh of Air T
Images taken from the Air T&G; helicopter, which was involved in water bombing operations at the Lennox Head fire on Monday. Photo Contributed by Wayne McIntosh of Air T

Grab tomorrow's Northern Star to see how we covered the brutal 2012 murder of Edward "Ned" Kelly at Broadwater and the ensuing manhunt for, and trial of, his killer, Jonathon Stenberg.



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