• Fleur Magick-Dennis stayed awake frightened that a lightning strike would spark a fire due to the area's dry terrain. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Rain may have seemed like a miracle on Monday night, but the tiny amount that poured down left communities with more fear than hope.
Brooke Fryer

8 Jan 2020 - 1:37 PM  UPDATED 8 Jan 2020 - 1:37 PM

On Monday night a storm in a small New South Wales town left locals laying awake in fear that a lighting strike would spark a bushfire as they continue to battle through one of the toughest droughts on record.  

The small community of Euchareena, located around 100 kilometres south-east of Dubbo, consists of about 70 people and 15 houses, and has struggled without running water for two years after its only dam dried-up.  

A recent smattering of rainfall should have helped alleviate the crisis, but Wiradjuri woman, Fleur Magick-Dennis, laid awake, terrified, instead. 

"We only got about a millimetre of rain. It was mainly a dry storm and it went on for hours and the danger with the dry storm is the lightning strikes,” she told NITV News.  

“All night we stayed up frightened the lightning would cause a fire in these dry conditions...most people in this area were up until 2 am.”  

Ms Magick-Dennis said her fears became a reality just 12 kilometres down the road when a fire started by a lightening strike ripped through seven hectares of bush land.  

“Canobolas rural fire attended that fire with nine trucks... and we just stayed awake hoping that it wouldn’t get to our village,” she said.  

Dry conditions  

Because the area is so hot and dry, Euchareena would “go up in flames” quickly said Ms Magick-Dennis, and the community would have no water to hold it back. The only option would be to evacuate.  

Lightning strikes continue to be one of the leading causes of bush fire ignition, especially in remote areas, according to Richard Woods who runs Wildfire Investigations and Analysis consultancy.  

He said lightning strikes are believed to have had started some of the recent extreme bushfires in QLD and NSW.  

"In the recent fires of northern New South Wales and Queensland, it was reported that there was a big lightning band that went through the area,” he said in a statement.  

“Positively charged lightning is far more likely to start a fire."  

The community currently relies on deliveries of bottled water, which costs them over $200 every 18 days.

Ms Magick-Dennis said her family often have to go around four days between showers, or washing dishes or clothes.  

This dire lack of water, she said, put them at high risk if a fire were to start in the area. Ms Magick-Dennis also described the  area as a prime location for bushfires to ignite because of the fibrous, dry tree bark and branches surrounding the community. 

“We'd be lucky to make it out alive," she said.   

“We also don't have an ability to put fire plans into place. We can’t fill our gutters with water and hose down our home.” 

Hazard reduction not a panacea, RFS boss Shane Fitzsimmons says
The NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner has weighed in on hazard reduction, saying the single biggest impediment to completing burns is weather.