THE biggest weekend on the Orange and District Pistol Club calendar turned to ashes when flames leaping up to 20 metres high swept onto the club grounds.
The 50-metre range and the scorer's office were destroyed, the 25-metre range and the clubhouse damaged and the Central West Pistol Championship derailed.
Computers, pistols, an airconditioning unit and thousand of dollars worth of targets were also destroyed and several shooters cars had paint blistered by the flames.
The fire started on property west of the Fanning Lane club off Icely Road at about 2.30pm
Club president Roger Bond said the main thing was no one was injured but the damage was devastating.
Twelve units of the NSW Rural Fire Service, including an aeroplane, and State Forests' helicopters took several hours to bring the fire under control.
As well as the loss of buildings, about 30 hectares of grassland and trees were burnt.
"It's 40 years of volunteer work down the drain," Mr Bond said.
"It started across the road but within about 20 minutes the wind came up and it was like a tornado.
"There was a complete wall of fire that went right over the clubhouse. We started trying to put it out with green branches but the wind just came up and up and up.
"Once it got near the road, we had to evacuate everyone. We had 15,000 rounds of ammunition out the back. The Rural Fire Service crews did a great job."
The fire made it into the clubhouse but the building was saved by RFS crews and a club member who climbed onto the roof and removed burning leaf litter from the gutters.
Mr Bond said a dollar value had not yet been placed on the damage.
"We're looking now to see what the insurance covers but more importantly what it doesn't," Mr Bond said.
One of the most disappointing things is we'd just bought 90 chairs from the end of the Olympic stadium, painted and put them in but 90 per cent of them are gone," he said.
RFS Canobolas Zone Inspector Steve Smith said the cause was not for release. He said the fire would be referred to the coroner for investigation.
Inspector Smith said the fire would have been much worse if not for the actions of one of the club members and a quick response from RFS units.
Dean Brus, a club member and NSW Fire Brigade officer, took control of a piece of earth moving equipment from a nearby farm and started to push fire breaks around some club buildings and along fence lines within minutes of the fire starting.
"Being a firie he's smelt the smoke and got some equipment and tried to stop it.
"He did an outstanding job and if not for him it would have gone a lot further," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said the flames were reaching 20 metres into the trees surrounding the club.
Mr Bond said the club would focus on repairing the range in time for the State Service Pistol Championship to be held in September.