National

NSW village endures ‘apocalyptic’ fire

By AAP Newswire

Residents thought they were going to die huddled in their small NSW community's fire station during an "apocalyptic" bushfire that sounded like a freight train and rained down embers and soot.

The Northern Tablelands village of Torrington, population 81, lost a dozen homes on Friday as the worst fire in living memory engulfed the town.

While some residents fled early on Friday, Linda Birch was among those to take refuge in the town's metal fire station.

Smoke soon crept under the doors of the shed as embers bombarded the vents.

"It wasn't a bushfire, it was a firestorm," she told AAP.

"The ferocity of this storm was that immense that we needed to put masks on within the shed as well."

Ms Birch admitted she thought she was going to die, describing the situation as "apocalyptic".

Outside, the volunteer firefighters who were barely able to see a few feet ahead of themselves watered down the shed and hoped it survived.

"The sound was like a freight train, we couldn't hear ourselves, we couldn't talk, we just reacted," Ms Birch said.

"We weren't sure if anyone survived outside. My husband and Leigh's husband were outside."

Jennette Styles said Victorian firefighters managed to save the community hall - "the hub of our village" - but homes dating back to the early 20th century and their contents had been lost.

"Our heritage, our history is just disappearing," she told AAP.

"It's an amazing village because we have beautiful people here and we care about each other.

"We pull together, but we need someone to come out and talk to these people who have lost houses.There are people who aren't insured or don't own the property or who have lost $85,000 sheds."

The volunteer firefighters continued fighting the blaze over the weekend, saving Geoff Hilton's home and shed just in time.

"How close do you want it to be?" he says, looking at scorched earth forming a ring around his shed.

Torrington RFS captain Greg Kneipp and his deputy, his dad Bob, have been battling the blaze since it began two weeks ago, with a few days rest in between.

They were thankful for the support of out-of-town and interstate crews, aerial water bombing and those carting water to the station to fill the trucks.

"This would be the worst fire and I'm 47 years in the RFS. This would be it by far and only because of the dry conditions is it so bad," Bob Kneipp told AAP.

He said the camaraderie of the fire crew was one of the reasons he stayed in the RFS but has noticed young people are less likely to sign up.

"We're a big happy family," he said.

"Even when the strike teams come in ... within a couple of days, we know every one of them."

NSW on Monday declared a state of emergency for seven days as bushfires continued to rage across the state.