AS northern NSW struggles with the aftermath of a horrific bushfire emergency that destroyed 44 homes, Bathurst and Kelso firefighters have been lending a hand.
The Busbys Flat fire ignited on October 4 in Richmond Valley, with hot temperatures and strong winds quickly fanning the blaze.
The fast-moving fire, which is still not under control, has since burnt through 47,790 hectares of bush and the worst thing is NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) suspect it may have been deliberately lit.
In the nearby town of Coongbar, the same blaze killed 77-year-old Bob Lindsey and Gwen Hyde, 68.
The fire moved with such velocity that some residents in the town of Rappville escaped with just the clothes on their back after their homes were incinerated.
Kelso man Scott Wilson was among 15 Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters from the Central West who were tasked on a five-day deployment to help the town.
"It's probably the worst one I've been to, just the amount of damage and how the fire picked and chose houses," he said of the sporadic nature of how some houses survived while the house next door was incinerated.
"Some houses were totally destroyed, but there was also some very good saves by crews.
"The town came under massive ember attack.
"There's people who have lost everything, all their memories and all they've got are the clothes on their back.
"The sad thing is a lot of them weren't insured."
Also in the taskforce with Mr Wilson were two other Kelso firefighters, with others from: Bathurst (2), Trangie (4), Blayney (1), Mudgee (1), Gulgong (1) and Aberdeen (3).
He said Rappville residents are struggling in the aftermath of the Busbys Flat bushfire which tore through their town.
"They're definitely shocked ... it's like they've never seen anything like this before and they were just grateful for the help," Mr Wilson said.
The Central West taskforce of firefighters were deployed to help the town during its "recovery stage" after the fire.
"We were put into a town that was quite hard hit, there were quite a few houses lost," he said.
"We were pretty much there to help the town get back on its feet and we were working to make it safe for residents to return
"Essential Energy replaced 253 telegraph poles in just a few days ... it was a mammoth effort."
The firefighters also helped manage asbestos risks in damaged buildings, put out spot fires and extinguish telegraph poles that had fallen and were still burning.
Despite all the heartbreak, Mr Wilson saw moments of hope and support from the wider community.
"There was a truck driving around with a sign on it that said 'free hay' and they stopped in Rappville and a guy and his wife jumped out and said 'who wants free hay'," he said.
Stay up-to-date with fires in your area on the NSW RFS' Fires Near Me website or app.
Rappville Public School becomes a bushfire sanctuary
Rappville Public School has played a central role in helping protect the community during the bushfire, with up to 50 displaced residents sheltering there at the height of the fire.
Principal Kathleen Collis said livestock were offered protection from the fire, which reached the school's oval.
"We had goats who took up residence in the boys' toilets, we had dogs in our staff room. I think there were sheep there as well," she said.
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