Gillard visits charred 'moonscape' of Coonabarabran

Prime Minister Julia Gillard today flew into Coonabarabran to witness first-hand the devastating effects of the bushfire that claimed at least 51 homes.

She drove through the Timor Road in Warrumbungle National Park, the epicentre of the inferno, which opened Wednesday for the first time since the fire for residents to see the extent of their losses.

Ms Gillard surveyed the charred countryside and blackened forests described by the Rural Fire Service as a "moonscape".

She saw the ruins of the home in which Bob and Jeanette Fenwick had raised four children.

The Fenwicks also lost 33 cows and 250 sheep in the blaze.

Their property is in the valley below the Australian Astromical Observatory where accommodation was destroyed, the site of which the Prime Minister also visited on Thursday.

Mr Fenwick told Ms Gillard that when he arrived at the property there was nothing to be done to stop the flames.

"We couldn't do anything here. It was over. It was so fast," he said.

"Unbelievable really, isn't it,'' the Prime Minister replied, touching his arm.

"I was up at the [Siding Springs] Observatory talking to people up there about how they looked out to see a narrow plume of smoke and then it's just - whoosh and they are leaving as quickly as they can with flames at the height of the observatory tower. It was an amazing firestorm."

She said it was clear that sometimes residents just needed to get out and look after themselves.

Ms Gillard added: "I have been looking at some of the houses as we have been coming up including ones that obviously had a huge firestorm behind them but because of the wind they have survived. There is just a randomness to it. It is hard to explain. You need to know a lot more about fire than I do to explain it."

Asked what they needed, Jeanette said, "Rain. Gentle rain."

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Warrumbungle Shire Mayor’s Bushfire Appeal: Warrumbungle Shire Council has set up a bushfire appeal to ensure donations from the community reach their intended target. Donated money will be used to help residents who have lost everything as a result of the fire.

The council has set up a special purpose bank account to accept donations via EFT:

Account Name: Warrumbungle Shire Council Mayor’s Bushfire Appeal

BSB: 062-524

Account: 10133579

Bank: Commonwealth Bank

Donations will also be accepted by cheque or payment at the council’s Coonabarabran and Coolah offices or at all Commonwealth Bank branches.

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