Cobargo tragedy close to home

Daryna ZadvirnaAlbany Advertiser
Main Street in Cobargo, NSW, on January 1 after fire swept through.
Camera IconMain Street in Cobargo, NSW, on January 1 after fire swept through. Credit: AAP Image/Sean Davey

A Denmark resident devastated about the destruction of her former home town of Cobargo has expressed grief for the community and concerns about its similarities to her new home.

Maddi Noble lived in Cobargo for more than five years, having been born in Central Tilba, a small NSW town just 20km away.

On New Year’s Eve, her old home and the butcher shop she ran with her former partner were gutted by fire.

Hearing the news brought Ms Noble to tears.

She said Cobargo, which had a tight-knit community, reminded her of Denmark.

“I just remember it being really green,” she said.

“You either knew everyone or you knew the friends of everyone. It was actually quite similar to the area here.

“Particularly landscape wise — maybe not so much with the Denmark River — but just similar people, definitely similar bush, trees and the greenery in general.”

She said the similarities in the dense, lush landscape were concerning after the devastation caused by the fires.

“It’s a little scary because I live right in Denmark in the township and on my back deck, there are just so many trees, so much bush.”

Supporting the local firefighters, building volunteer numbers and carrying out prescribed burning was crucial, she said.

“You’ve got to support burning off to an extent,” she said.

“Unfortunately, there will be trees and probably some wildlife lost during the burn-off, but I mean there have been 500 million animals lost over east, so you have to do what you can to stop that from happening.”

Firefighters inspect fire damage in Cobargo, NSW, Wednesday, January 1, 2020. Several bushfire-ravaged communities in NSW have greeted the new year under immediate threat. (AAP Image/Sean Davey) NO ARCHIVING
Camera IconFirefighters inspect fire damage in Cobargo, NSW, Wednesday, January 1, 2020. Several bushfire-ravaged communities in NSW have greeted the new year under immediate threat. (AAP Image/Sean Davey) NO ARCHIVING Credit: AAPIMAGE

Ms Noble said she was in shock when she heard what had happened to Cobargo.

“I woke up to a text message and a shot of the main street of Cobargo burning and I could just see the side of the butcher shop, which was made out of concrete and one of the only buildings still standing, with big flames behind it,” she said.

“I called Rory, my ex-partner, straight away to see if he was OK and he said he was in the evacuation centre. I burst into tears when I found out the house that I moved from burned down. Rory lost everything — his home, cars, his belongings, some of my belongings that were still there.”

She said hearing that local firefighting father-and-son Robert and Patrick Salway had died was particularly tough.

“I went to school with Patrick’s wife, Rennee,” she said.

“We weren’t very close but we’d always say hello to each other on the street and I’d see Patrick at the pub and he’d come into our butchers shop—it was just devastating.”

Ms Noble said she was extremely proud of how her small former community had coped with the tragedy and stayed in “high spirits” despite their loss.

“The Cobargo Bushfire Relief Centre was totally set up by locals who have just stepped up to do so—because they had to.”

A fundraising jar set up by Ms Noble at her Denmark workplace, The Green Pantry, was filled with about $550 within just two days, with the funds going directly to her friends affected by the fires in Cobargo.

She encouraged local communities to donate any funds they could and provide whatever support they were able to for communities affected by fire.

“Please donate to the rural fire services, whether it be here or over east,” she said.

“Every bit counts and these amazing people who risk their lives to help others need our support.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails