Above: The sky glowing red over Tinonee south of Taree late on Friday night.
Amid the devastation of the 80-plus bushfires burning across NSW this weekend, there were pockets of relief and rejoicing—as some saw winds change, rains fall, and prayers answered just in time.
Among them was David Corner, a resident of Tinonee: a small town near Taree that was devastated by the massive 13,000-hectare Hillville fire on the Mid North Coast. He was on his property last night, praying for protection with the fire front dangerously close—when he saw the wind change in his favour.
David told Hope 103.2 today that most of Tinonee’s residents had evacuated, but he’d decided he would stay and defend his property, flooding gutters with water and looking after horses and dogs.
David’s partner Megan sent out text messages asking for prayer, and dozens of Christian friends around Australia, some who were in prayer meetings at the time, began praying for their protection.
A Change in the Wind, A Shower of Rain
“We’d been watching the fire all day,” David said. “At about 3 o’clock in the afternoon the wind started cracking – coming up towards our paddocks. I started praying really hard for the horses, they were closest to the fire.
“By 10:30 at night we were right at the fire front. It was massive. The sky was red and gumtrees were crashing with huge explosions. Pretty intimidating. I could hear the cracks echoing across the gully.
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“The media reports were calling the fire a ‘great beast with 50-metre, tormenting flames’ and that’s what it looked like. It was a monster of a thing.
“It was a monster of a thing… But I stood there praying and singing. I had such faith that God was looking after us.”
“But I stood there praying and singing. I put my trust in Jesus and I had such faith that God was looking after us. The wind dropped – and that was the moment I got a text message, telling me of 55 people who were praying specifically for us.
“And then we got a backup: a short shower of rain – something we were also praying for. Nothing that was going to defeat the fire, but it was rain. I took it as a sign from God that we would be okay. Once I figured the paddock was safe I drove out, and at that moment, rain hit the windscreen. The rain fell upon our house, and made a fair racket for a minute or two, it was an awesome, powerful moment.”
The shift in the weather meant the couple’s property was saved, as was their friend Jacqui’s place in the next street. The pair believe it was God who made the difference.
“My mate thought for sure that her mum’s place was gone,” said Megan. “They had evacuated, she had to leave behind her two horses, her alpacas, birds, chooks, guinea pigs and rabbits. One of her neighbours lost their home and everyone assumed hers would be gone, too.
“They miraculously came out unscathed. The fire stopped on her boundary.”
“But Dave started to pray for them. And we found out in the morning that they miraculously came out unscathed. The fire stopped on her boundary.”
Megan was devastated, though, to learn that so many other locals had lost homes. She said it had been a very frightening time.
“It’s still so smokey and windy here,” she said. “I’ll be glad when it’s all over. The wind needs to drop and we need rain.”
Much More Prayer Needed; Property Owners Urged to Be Ready
David said his thoughts were now with others in the region: “We need to keep praying, because a lot of people are affected.”
Tragically three people have died in the more than 80 fires burning across NSW, including one person whose body was found in a burnt-out building at Johns River 40km north of Taree just this afternoon. At least six other people are missing, and at least 100 homes have been lost.
Firefighters from Mid Coast and Warringah-Pittwater Rural Fire Brigades have been battling for days to try and contain the giant Hillville blaze, which was still out of control 8:30pm Saturday night. A team of 100 firefighters have been sent in from South Australia to assist.
“Property owners are urged to keep a watch on the RFS app and social media, listen to local radio, and have a clear plan of what they will do if fire threatens.”
The Old Bar Bowling Club on the coast is being used as an evacuation centre with hundreds taking refuge there; while a surf club that was being used as a shelter had to be evacuated when the fire reached all the way to the coast at Diamond Beach.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says there is still much hard work ahead for fire crews, and currently the weather forecast is for even worse conditions early next week. Property owners are urged to keep a watch on the RFS app and social media pages, listen to local radio, and make sure they have a clear plan of what they will do if fire threatens.
Meanwhile in Queensland, a State of Fire Emergency has been declared across 42 local government areas, while three regions in Western Australia are expected to escalate to “catastrophic” warnings in the coming days.