Firefighters are looking forward to forecast rain after an anguishing week in which a married couple died and 45 homes were destroyed in northern NSW.
During the current bushfire season, a total of 89 homes have been destroyed by fire.
The bodies of 77-year-old Bob Lindsey and Gwen Hyde, 68, were found in their destroyed Coongbar home on Thursday after the blaze known as the Drake fire roared through the region on Tuesday afternoon.
Local Ken Crowther said the couple was well known in the small community about 70 kilometres south of Casino.
“It’ll be fairly devastating for us all,” he told Ten News.
The couple reportedly met late in life and married three years ago.
The couple’s friend Carol Dillon told News Corp “everyone was pleased” when Mr Lindsey, a former service station owner, got together with Ms Hyde, a widowed farmer.
“It was a lovely wedding, a quiet one,” she said.
She said Ms Hyde had called asking for advice about fires burning in the couple’s orchard hours before flames engulfed their house.
“Gwen rang me to see if I had the phone number for the fire brigade as she was getting spot fires in her orchard and wanted to know what to do,” Ms Dillon said.
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NSW Police Superintendent Toby Lindsay said the circumstances of Mr Lindsey and Ms Hyde’s deaths would be “subject to an extensive investigation”.
The Drake fire that killed the couple had been burning for more than a month before it flared up and hit Coongbar on Tuesday. Fire investigators say it was caused by a lightning strike.
The neighbouring Busbys Flat fire – which has since joined up with the Drake blaze – started last Friday night. Police believe it was deliberately lit.
The NSW Rural Fire Service said 37 homes were destroyed in the Busbys Flat fire, while another eight were razed in the Drake fire.
A further 72 outhouses and two community facilities have been destroyed, according to the most recent count.
On Thursday, the Insurance Council of Australia officially declared the fires a catastrophe, just five weeks after a similar declaration for bushfires on the Sunshine Coast.
NSWRFS spokesman James Morris said firefighters from South Australia and Victoria, and personnel from the Northern Territory, had arrived in NSW on Thursday to help out.
More than 30 bush and grass fires continued to burn in NSW on Thursday afternoon. While 13 remained uncontained, Mr Morris said favourable conditions were likely in coming days.
“We’re likely to see some rain over the fire grounds on Saturday so that will allow us to see hopefully some containment,” he said.
“Obviously we’ll see some easing of fire conditions even further and fire activity, but it will depend on how much (rain) we get.”
Rain is tipped for much of eastern Australia on Friday and Saturday – with forecaster Weatherzone saying some places could be in line for their best drop in months.
“Showers and thunderstorms will continue to affect a broad area of eastern Australia on Saturday, possibly becoming more confined to central and south-east Queensland and north-east NSW,” it said.
However, rainfall totals were difficult to predict and would vary between districts.