Trainer risks his life to protect horses from fire
Racehorse trainer Terry Evans has twice been confronted by the bushfire catastrophe that is ravaging NSW's mid-north coast - and both times he has beaten the odds.
Somehow, his stables on track at Tuncurry racecourse narrowly avoided the inferno a week ago.
The 15 racehorses Evans trains escaped without harm.
Evans and some of his staff risked their own lives to keep the horses safe. The trainer even bunkered down at the stables that night to watch out for his racehorses.
Then at nearby Rainbow Flats last Friday, another fire-front erupted and bore down on the trainer's family home and spelling property.
Evans was confronted with walls of fire that closed to within 20m of his house. He had to abandon the fight and run for his life.
"We returned to the property on Saturday morning and it's a miracle we found the house still standing,'' Evans said.
"Our boundary fences are burnt, everything around us is black and charred. The fireys did an amazing job, I don't know how our house didn't go. You never realise until you go through something like this how dangerous these fires can be.''
The courageous RFS firefighters saved Evans property - but the crisis is not over.
As NSW wakes to a horror day with catastrophic fire danger predicted for the greater Sydney, greater Hunter and Illawarra/Shoalhaven regions, Evans is preparing for the worst again.
"The fires have already gone through large parts of the area and it is mainly the smoke we have to deal with now,'' Evan said.
"We can't gallop the horses fast each morning at the track because the smoke is so thick.
"The big problem we have now is that the embers are carried on the wind and where they fall the fires start up all over again.
"The danger hasn't passed, this is the calm before the storm.''
Evans said the Tuncurry fire was close to hell on earth. Two fire fronts converged on the racecourse, the flames licking the perimeter fences.
"My stables are down the northern end of the track and fires did get very close,'' the trainer said.
"The flames were 100 feet high and right above the stables.
"At one point I had no option but to let the horses loose into the centre of the course until the fires went through. But the horses kept calm, they were really good.
"It's been a bit rough these last couple of weeks but we are much luckier than a lot of people.''
Racing NSW is taking no chances with the bushfire crisis and has postponed Tuesday's scheduled Scone race meeting until Wednesday.
Peter V'landys, Racing NSW chief executive, said the risk was too great to allow the races to proceed today.
"This fire crisis is unprecedented and the safety of all participants and horses comes first,'' he said.
Racing NSW will advise of new race times for Scone when available.
There is a race meeting programmed for Hawkesbury on Wednesday while planned race meetings at Quirindi and Port Macquarie on Thursday are being closely monitored.
Meanwhile, Gosford racecourse's infield will be made available from this morning for anyone in need of an evacuation point for their horses.