An elderly couple have died on their remote rural property when bushfires swept across northern NSW, destroying at least 29 homes and razing businesses, including a timber mill.
The bodies of a 77-year-old man and 68-year-old woman were found in their Coongbar home on Thursday after the Drake fire roared through the region on Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities visited the home on Wednesday night and discovered it had been destroyed but forensic officers only found the remains on Thursday afternoon.
Local Ken Crowther said the couple, Bob Lindsey and Gwen Hyde, was well known by everyone in the small community around 70km 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 circumstances around the unfortunate deaths of these two people will be subject to an extensive investigation," Superintendent Toby Lindsay told reporters in nearby Casino.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian sent her condolences.
"So saddened to hear about the loss of life in the bushfires in northern NSW," she tweeted.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected."
The Drake fire which killed the couple had been burning for more than a month before it hit Coongbar. Fire investigators say it was caused by a lightning strike.
The neighbouring Busbys Flat fire - which has since joined up with the Drake blaze - only started on Friday evening and police believe it was deliberately lit.
Eight homes were destroyed in the Drake inferno on Tuesday. At least 21 homes were lost in the Busbys Flat fire with half thought to be in the tiny hamlet of Rappville.
In total across the region, 72 outbuildings were destroyed, according to the Rural Fire Service's most recent count. Some 23 were damaged.
Two community facilities were razed - including the Rappville Town Hall, according to locals - and seven were damaged.
Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow says the destruction of the Tarmac Sawmill in Rappville will hurt 30 employees and have a "big impact on our community".
The Brisbane to Sydney rail line has been cut and won't operate for an estimated five days, the mayor added.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said stretches of the rail line had been damaged and the Rappville rail bridge destroyed.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons confirmed the Busbys Flat blaze was being treated as suspicious.
"We've got to call it out - it's a heinous crime, a criminal act," he told the Nine Network on Thursday.
Strikeforce Cleander has been formed to investigate the cause of the fire.
Supt Lindsay insists the strike force "will leave no stone unturned so we can provide answers for the rural communities impacted by this disaster".
Teams are still assessing how many properties have been lost or damaged. So far this bushfire season more than 70 homes have been destroyed across NSW.
The Drake and Busbys Flat fires have scorched a combined 115,000 hectares.
More than 30 bushfires continue to burn across NSW, six of which remain out of control. But all of the fires are currently at the lower "advice" alert level.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the federal government would provide "whatever assistance is necessary".
The RFS said residents likely won't be able to return home for a number of days given trees are down across roads and power lines are on the ground.
Australian Associated Press