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NSW bush fire destroys 33 homes

Bush fires rage across north-west NSW destroying at least 33 homes.

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This is the moment Mark Barrow will never forget.

Staring into a wall of fire that had engulfed the horizon and that was fast approaching.

"I couldn't believe it" .... Mark Barrow was heading towards the Warrumbungle National Park when he saw this fire.

"I couldn't believe it" .... Mark Barrow was heading towards the Warrumbungle National Park when he saw this fire. Photo: Mark Barrow

"It was pretty hectic," he said. "I couldn't believe it. It came up so quick and was phenomenal."

"There were spot fires all round us, we just saw this and fled," he said.

Mr Barrow, 31, from Narrabri, was travelling along Timor Road heading towards the Warrumbungle National Park for work about 5.30pm on Sunday.

"We had to get out pretty quick. I am not sure whether that house in the picture is still there," he said.

Mr Barrow took a quick picture, then immediately turned his car around.

He captured part of what the NSW Rural Fire Service said has destroyed at least 28 homes west of Coonabarabran in the state's north west.

The fire in the Warrumbungle National Park has burnt out nearly 40,000 hectares and has a 100km-wide front. About 100 people living in the area have been forced to evacuate their homes, the RFS said.

RFS: still a large and dangerous bushfire

The RFS is advising this still remains a large and dangerous bushfire.

"The fire is burning in a northerly direction away from Timor Road and the Siding Spring Observatory and is currently burning in the Bugaldie area," the RFS website warns.

"If you have relocated to escape the fire, it is not safe for you to return. Do not attempt to go home."

The Australian National University's Siding Spring Observatory will be closed for the next two weeks to enable a full assessment of the damage caused to it by the fire, and to ensure the site is safe for staff prior to their return.

An ANU spokeswoman said in a press release their priority at this stage is the safety and wellbeing of staff and their families, a number of whom have lost their homes in the fire.

"All 18 people at the Observatory were evacuated to Coonabarabran on Sunday afternoon and are confirmed safe. A further 10 people who were scheduled to arrive at the Observatory had their visit postponed," she said.

NSW Family and Community Services, regional welfare coordinator, Dennis Shrimpton said a number of counsellors and chaplins have been engaged to work with those affected by the fires.

''There are emotional scenes, that's why we have the Red Cross here and counsellors, but most people are simply getting on with the job. They are quite a resilient people, who have suffered trauma either directly or indirectly,'' he said.

So far 148 people have registered with the relocation centre established at the Coonabaraban Bowling Club while 29 people have registered in nearby Baradine at an evacuation centre in the Tattersalls Hotel.

''We have accommodated 21 people in motels and hotels in Coonabaraban while 13 needed accommodation in Baradine,'' he said.

Lucky escape for teacher's family

Coonabarabran's local high school teacher Peter Morrissey considers his family one of the region's lucky ones. They nearly lost their home on Morrissey's Road in the Yerrinan Valley that had been in the family for nearly a century.

"We were really nervous on Sunday because we could see tongues of flame leaping up into the sky through the smoke, and we could hear it crackling in the distance, but we still weren't really sure where it was," he said.

Mr Morrissey, his wife, Julianne , along with their daughter Caitlyn were safely evacuated to nearby Coonabarabra only to return on Monday and find that everything surrounding the property - and including parts of the house itself - had been burned to the ground.

"Fortunately, much of the interior of the house has been preserved because it was protected by inflammable materials," he said. "We're very lucky, but unfortunately that's not the case for everyone. The home just next door has been burned to the ground, while others have remained untouched. It's just completely unpredictable."

"We're understandably upset, but we were able to salvage our belongings before the fire struck. We can sympathise with other people in town who have probably lost more than us. Others haven't been so lucky," he said.

- With Kristen Amiet