News State New South Wales Torrington residents emerged from shed after blaze to find their world changed, but worse may be ahead
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Torrington residents emerged from shed after blaze to find their world changed, but worse may be ahead

Linda Birch sheltered in a shed with six other people as fire swept through the town of Torrington. Photo: ABC
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As she bunkered down in a shed in the small NSW town of Torrington, with fire fast approaching, Linda Birch accepted she was probably going to die.

Embers rained down and flames encircled the shed she shared with six others as they listened to the horrific sounds of people yelling outside, gas bottles exploding and ammunition blowing up.

“I thought that was the moment I was going to lose my life,” she said.

“I’ve never been in a war zone but maybe that was on par.”

On Friday, the small town north of Glen Innes, with a population of around 100, suffered what Ms Birch described as a “firestorm of apocalyptic proportions”.

It has so far burnt 50,000 hectares in the area and destroyed 13 homes, with fears of further devastation as conditions worsen today.

Torrington is about an hour’s drive from Wytaliba, where on the same day two people lost their lives in another fire.

Ms Birch said the three hours she spent in the shed “praying to every god” were the worst of her life.

She feared for her husband, out fighting the blaze with the Rural Fire Service (RFS), but also tried to comfort others in the shed, including one woman who had a panic attack during the crisis.

A bushfire approaches the town of Torrington. Photo: Facebook/Sandra Downs

Reflecting on it days later, Ms Birch is grateful her house was saved but admits her mind is distracted by thoughts of what fresh challenges may confront them on Tuesday.

Fire danger in the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and the Illawarra and Shoalhaven are catastrophic, while Torrington’s fire danger level sits at extreme.

“This is not over by any means,” Ms Birch said.

“This is the eye of the storm.”

Torrington’s RFS volunteers have been racing Tuesday’s deadline to backburn and put in containment lines.

They’ve allowed themselves just four hours’ break each day, not resting until around 3:00am, then back at it by breakfast.

Thirteen properties were destroyed in the blaze. Photo: ABC

Before Friday, the state had never experienced 17 emergency-level bushfires simultaneously.

Three lives were lost and at least 150 homes destroyed throughout towns near Glen Innes, Port Macquarie and Taree.

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack knocked those trying to link climate change to the unprecedented bushfires, calling them “raving inner city lunatics”.

Ms Birch said politicians sitting in offices should watch what they say.

Local RFS volunteers have worked hard to backburn before today’s dangerous conditions. Photo: AAP

“What would people like that think if they were stuck in the shed like I was?” she asked.

“This devastation is a consequence of people arguing about climate change.”

Fire has already ripped a hole through Torrington, but residents are holding firmly to each other as they confront what lies ahead.

Linda Birch hasn’t had a chance to come to terms with her close call. Photo: ABC

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