A thick blanket of choking gray smoke rolls across the hills and highways.
It edges silently forward in the cold morning light, consuming Port Macquarie like something out of a Stephen King horror novel.
Residents nearest the Lindfield Park Road bushfire say it's not the smoke stinging their eyes, or the impenetrable cloud obscuring their vision, that's the problem.
The worst part is the smell, a constant reminder of burning peat.
"It stinks. A normal bush fire smell is okay, but this smells like a garbage tip burning," Stephen and Penny Gardoll said.
"You can see it in the early morning and it comes in overnight to settle in the valley. When the fire first started it was really dangerous on the highway. It's like a heavy fog."
The 320 hectare bushfire has kept emergency services on patrol for more than a month after it started on Lindfield Park Road on July 19.
Rural Fire Service (RFS) district officer Stuart Robb said options are being considered to finally extinguish the fire.
"The fire is still burning within the containment lines. The challenge for firefighters is the slow burning peat fire," Mr Robb said.
"RFS has been working with the Department of Health, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, the NSW Environmental Protection Authority and the Department of Primary Industry on possible extinguishing options.
"We are just waiting to finalise those and sign off on them. We should have that in the coming week.
"The amount of smoke in that basin area is not just from the Lindfield Park fire.
"There are two fairly large fires burning at Toms Creek and Ellenborough. There are fires burning around Kempsey as well."
Lindfield Park Road has flared several times, the latest push by strong winds allowed flames to reach the Port Macquarie airport runway on August 19.
More than 70 firefighters belonging to 18 crews from Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW Rural Fire Service attended the containment.
Ascot Park resident Dana Brestel, who has lived in Port Macquarie since 2015, said he ahd seen other serious fires in previous years.
"I lived in South Australia for about six years and in the summer it seemed like (it) was always on fire, but it was never this close," he said.
"The RFS is doing a really good job of protecting properties.
"One concern that comes up often with neighbours is that there is no barrier separating us and the bushland from the Oxley Highway.
"Many of us just bought new houses in the area and we would be devastated financially if we had to move because our property was burnt by fire.
"It's been just the driest winter and we are all really concerned about how bad it is going to be in summer in January or February."
The smoke is also taking a hefty toll on animals, according to Lindfield Park Road resident Jenny.
"We have two of our own horses and an agisted horse on our property," she said.
"When the fire first started we moved them out to Wauchope for a week. Unfortunately at this point in time, we can't afford to move them again.
"All the smoke congregates in the paddock and we are worried about the ongoing health issues with the horses.
"We have sore eyes, everyone is irritated but without rain it's not going to stop."
Large Air Tanker Marie Bashir water bombed the fire zone as a control measure on August 8. It was the 737 LAT's maiden water drop.
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams plans to speaks directly with Acting Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers today, August 22, about the ongoing management of the Lindfield Park Road fire. It will include considering the feasibility of bringing the LAT back for a more intense campaign.
But according to Mr Robb, aircraft does not have the effective water distribution to extinguish a peat fire which travels underground.
Lindfield Park Group Home disability support worker Graeme Black said until the fire is put out for good, residents will be forced to suffer the smoke.
"We've got to close all the windows and doors because the smoke impacts people with asthma and the behaviour of people with intellectual disabilities," he said.
"People can hardly breath sometimes and this morning, I couldn't see the road because the smoke was so thick.
"The trouble is that it's ongoing. It's unbelievable."
The North Coast Public Health Unit is advising people to consider their health while smoke is affecting the area.
Director Paul Corben said air-quality monitoring which began in late July is indicating smoke levels ranging from fair to hazardous.
"We strongly advise people who are more sensitive to smoke, including those with respiratory or heart conditions, pregnant women and very small children, to take active steps to protect their health," said Mr Corben.
"People with chronic health conditions or who are experiencing symptoms should limit their exposure to the smoke.
"Residents should also minimise smoke inside their homes from other sources such as candles, incense burners and wood fired heaters.
"Ensure all windows and doors are closed tightly, especially at night when smoke pollution levels are usually highest.
"Anyone experiencing symptoms of repeated coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, palpitations or nausea should seek medical attention."
To stay up to date with the situation, please download the Fires Near Me App, or visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
Remember, now is the time to start thinking about preparing your property for the summer ahead. Go to www.myfireplan.com.au
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