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Destructive fire forces evacuation

Emma Pritchard

A fire that destroyed property at Banyabba, around 30km north of Grafton last month, forced the evacuation of over 30 people and closed the Summerland Way for two hours.

Shortly after 4 pm on April 30, emergency services responded to reports a garage was alight. Acting Captain Chris Rumpf from Grafton Fire and Rescue 306 Station, said upon arrival RFS crews were already working to extinguish the blaze which had spread to the house. A shipping container on the property was also alight.

Acting Captain Rumpf said there was numerous equipment, including several acetylene cylinders on the property impacted by the fire and the area was declared a HAZMAT scene due to the treat of explosions. “A 200m exclusion radius was ordered, which resulted in the immediate evacuation of about a dozen residents and locals who were assisting the owner in their efforts to defend the property, along with 20 RFS firefighters and crew,” he said.

“The Summerland Way was within the 200m exclusion zone which meant it had to be closed for safety. “We had several hose lines set up just spraying the cylinders to cool them down, and everyone stood down for 90 minutes. “We used a thermal imaging camera to monitor the decreasing temperature of the cylinders because an acetylene cylinder impacted by fire can continue degrading. “Once we were satisfied that they weren’t an issue anymore and it was safe to re-enter the scene, the site was handed back to the RFS.” Acting Captain Rumpf also confirmed some spot fires were also extinguished.

“Unfortunately, the whole house and the garage was a write-off as a result of the fire,” he said. “The property owner was home at the time, but thankfully, no injuries occurred.” Officers from the Coffs/Clarence Police District attended the scene, and the NSW Fire and Rescue Investigation Unit inspected the property on May 1. The cause of the fire is currently unknown, and investigations are continuing.