Wombats airlifted to safety and 680 homes destroyed
The current bushfire in NSW has been rapid and relentless as more than 680 homes have been destroyed by the flames.
Communities have since banded together to help evacuate a wildlife sanctuary that had more than 300 native animals under threat from the massive blazes.
Less than a month ago, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) told Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park, 60kms north of Sydney, that there was a chance that the park could come under threat from the Gospers Mountain fire.
Naturally, the park’s owner Tassin Barnard was concerned that there was no way to evacuate all of the animals safely if the blaze hit the park.
She put out a call on Facebook that reached more than 170,000 people and containers were brought to the park to help evacuate the farm animals.
“All our farm animals are on the farm and they are having a lovely time – I don’t think they’re going to want to come home,” Barnard said to The Guardian.
The hundreds of native wildlife, including kangaroos, emus, koalas, wombats and dingos were left behind as Barnard had no way to move them without causing them pain or stress.
However, RFS told Barnard two days ago that due to the intense fires that engulfed 230,000 hectares of Gospers Mountain, the sanctuary could not be protected.
“I felt sick, because I thought I’d made the wrong decision and it was too late,” she said.
Barnard and her crew made an evacuation plan and shifted the animals to Blackbutt Reserve. This is when two “craggy old wombats” were taken to Featherdale Wildlife Park by helicopter.
“They’re two particularly craggy old wombats that weren’t going to take well to travelling anyway, so the fact that we could give them a 15-minute helicopter ride instead of a two- potentially three-hour car trip was really, really important,” she said.
Barnard credits her team and the effort they went to practice evacuating the animals safely.
“To move these 40-odd kangaroos and wallabies and five emus, I thought it was two days’ work, and I was also convinced that we were going to have animals injured in the process,” Barnard said.
“But because my team has been practising this for three weeks, they were absolutely phenomenal … We started at 10 am and we finished at 2.30pm. And no serious injuries.”
The animals are in safe hands, but the closure of the park means no income to feed the animals. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the park, which has so far raised more than $25,000.
NSW RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said that crews are planning to assess the damage from blazes today and over the weekend.
"I think that firefighters did some incredible saves last night on properties and I think some of the vision has shown that," he said to the ABC.
"We've got to work out how many homes we have lost."
Footage of walls of flames have been released on social media, which Rogers says is reflective of the current landscape.
"It's reflective of how dry the landscape is.
"The drought makes the fuel so quick to burn and it burns so volatile when it burns."
Scroll through the gallery to see just how Barnard and her team moved the animals.
Photo credits: GoFundMe
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