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Now the fire is burning a hole in Braidwood’s economy (but you can help)

Michael Weaver 14 December 2019 19
Braidwood business owners

Karuna Bajracharya (front, right) with Braidwood businesspeople standing together as the town recovers from the North Black Range Palerang bushfire. Photo: Kristy Moyle.

A cafe in Braidwood made just $50 last Saturday. The council’s grader driver Billy Halligan has a pillow in his grader just so he can get some sleep. Business owners are not seeing their families. School children have had more days off than days at school in the last two weeks.

The North Black Range Palerang fire has engulfed more than just 36,000 hectares around the town of Braidwood.

One of the town’s business owners, Karuna Bajracharya, who owns the appropriately named Smokey Horse Himalayan/Nepalese restaurant in Braidwood, said the battle against the blaze has taken a massive toll on the community, even though the bushfire is mostly under control.

With the town’s water supply also dangerously close to running out, Karuna said he speaks for most of those in Braidwood when he says that businesses and people in the town are suffering.

“We’ve been shrouded in smoke for weeks and resources are stretched thin,” Karuna said.

“I’m pleading with Canberrans to come and visit us this weekend and spend some money in our town, at our cafes, galleries, gift shops. There is more to Braidwood than just our bakery and toilets. Our traditionally busy time leading up to Christmas is what keeps many of these businesses afloat,” Karuna said.

He said many people in the town are casually employed and have had to forego an income to either protect their homes or help fight the fires.

“Everyone is talking about the fantastic job the RFS volunteers are doing, but it’s the story of everyone else who’s got a ute or a trailer driving around with a water tank on it, just doing what they have to in order to fight the fires.

“They’ve been going out and digging containment lines and they’re not able to do their own work or spend time with their families,” Karuna said.

“Some people I know have been doing 10 to 14-hour days for two weeks on end and they have to make the decision of whether they do their job so that they can buy Christmas presents, or stay and help save their neighbour’s property and livestock.

“That’s the choice these people are facing before Christmas.”

Braidwood elf, Anthony Kelly

Braidwood’s happiest elf, Anthony Kelly. Photo: Kristy Moyle.

Karuna said the community is coping well, but the ripple effect of the fire is burning a hole in the town’s economy.

He said people are getting on with their lives, while also organising fundraisers where musicians are donating their time and Capital Brewing in Canberra has donated free beers.

The Sunday Sesh RFS fundraiser will be a chance for the community to show its appreciation this Sunday for the “hard-sloggin’, heart-warmin’, firefighting volunteers of the NSW Rural Fire Service who have been working like dogs to keep our communities safe” as the event says in its call to arms.

Donations can be made at the door, with all money going towards the Braidwood Rural Fire Service and Braidwood Community Association.

Karuna said the town will definitely recover but needs lots of support from the wider community in Canberra and surrounds to help get the town back on its feet.

The Braidwood Farmers’ Market and Ryrie Park Markets will be held on Saturday, 21 December, with lots of opportunities for people to get the #buyitfrombraidwood tag trending. Word is that lots of fresh garlic will be available.

“There are some simple things people can do,” Karuna says.

“If you’ve got some last-minute Christmas shopping to do, come and spend some time in the whole town and support our local economy.

“It’s probably the best way to directly support our bushfire-ravaged community.”

He said people have been pitching in and helping each other, but there’s been a lot of worried looks on people’s faces and almost every conversation is about the fires.

“The grassroots of the community has really pulled together, but those grassroots are burning out now as well.”

Some parents have been going to the Braidwood schools as education supporters and helping with creative arts.

Karuna says, “We’ve been trying to get the kids into a good frame of mind and they’ve done some amazing artworks of the firefighters in action.

“It’s definitely something that’s going to stick in the minds of many as a major life event for some time to come.”

Learn more about the Sunday Sesh, hosted by Smokey Horse, on Facebook.


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19 Responses to Now the fire is burning a hole in Braidwood’s economy (but you can help)
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Valérie Renault Koroschetz Valérie Renault Koroschetz 8:02 pm 14 Dec 19

Best fish and chips at the hotel pub in Braidwood! And the elf is the best and happiest elf I have ever met. I love his shop. It is like the Ali baba cave of wonders.

Lee Shu Ying Lee Shu Ying 4:05 pm 14 Dec 19

Kathryn Allan you can do good by having a brunch :p

Sam Buchanan Sam Buchanan 3:27 pm 14 Dec 19

Daniel well now it's a community service to make a trip to braidwood outdoors ;)

Melanie Pietsch Melanie Pietsch 12:28 pm 14 Dec 19

Mary looks like we have to keep our quilt shop date in Braidwood !

Claudia Guszich Claudia Guszich 10:38 am 14 Dec 19

We heard about this on the radio yesterday. With Braidwood only an hours drive away, we're especially making the trip there tomorrow to grab lunch at one of the more obscure coffee/foodie places (there are some great alternatives to the bakery) and to see what treasures we can find at their antique shops!

Rebecca Stockley Gallacher Rebecca Stockley Gallacher 10:31 am 14 Dec 19

Stephen Gallacher, Pinky Nicholson a day trip in January?

    Barry Pope Barry Pope 1:46 pm 14 Dec 19

    Rebecca Stockley Gallacher Go Pinky go!!!

    Pinky Nicholson Pinky Nicholson 2:27 pm 14 Dec 19

    Rebecca Stockley Gallacher sure! Sounds good. 🙂

Lyn Goldsworthy Lyn Goldsworthy 9:37 am 14 Dec 19

The kings Hwy is open again, Yeay. We will of course be travelling thru Braidwood - from our home on coast to CANBERRA! Any businesses have online sites? Happy to che k them out in meantime

    Courtney Matthew Courtney Matthew 12:29 pm 14 Dec 19

    Lyn Goldsworthy is love to find out if some are online aswell! Working retail myself, I don’t have much time to make the 2 hour return trip until the new year, but would love to support them

Karen Hedley Karen Hedley 9:25 am 14 Dec 19

I can't make the trip but it would be great to shop online if they have websites.

Angela Moore Angela Moore 9:24 am 14 Dec 19

I can't be there because I now live in Queensland, but I certainly wish that I could be. Wishing all the best for Christmas and into the future to you very brave people. ❤

David Nelson David Nelson 9:23 am 14 Dec 19

Now the Kings Highway is open again 👍😊

I'm sure Canberra and Queanbeyan travelers will stop for a break and support Braidwood.

We always stop for a coffee and a pie at the bakery on our way to the Coast ☕

Safe travelling over the festive season 🎅🎄🎅🎄🎅🎄🎅

    Barry Pope Barry Pope 1:42 pm 14 Dec 19

    That's good to know. Thanks.

    Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 3:41 pm 15 Dec 19

    Jenny Lawrence

    Agree with that. The bakery is a big disappointment

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