Pictures from the bushfires north of Moruya, worried locals, forgotten houses

Lisa Herbert 2 January 2020 2
The verandah under his neighbour's house is still burning.

Keeping watch: the verandah under his neighbour’s house is still burning, North Rosedale Photos: Lisa Herbert.

Under thick smoke, with flames visible to the left and right of George Bass Drive, we drove carefully to see if we could get through to Batemans Bay.

In Broulee, at the Surf Club, we met a group of local heroes. Five-hundred people had been sheltering at the club and on the beach on New Year’s Eve. Many were then evacuated to the Moruya Showground.

A Broulee resident said: “We were out with the hose, could see the flames coming. At about 20 metres from my back fence, the wind changed. That saved the whole town.”

Looking back over these images, they are all brown. I can’t get any colour into them through editing. But that’s what it’s like. Black and brown. And out of earshot of the choppers, completely silent.

At North Broulee a long strip of foreshore and dune had been burnt metres away from homes.

People are gathered on headlands trying to get phone coverage. Everyone looks tired. Beat.

“Go now,” people are saying. “You don’t want to be here this weekend.”

“We don’t know how these fires are going to behave.”

At South Rosedale I meet a woman who is staying to protect her home.

This woman is stoic, prepared, has been looking after her home and garden in protective ways for years. She has water out for wildlife, chalk messages written on her driveway: “I am here.”

“You know, my neighbours each side are Canberrans. One hasn’t been here for 10 years. They rent out these houses on Stayz, and don’t look after the grounds, trim trees, anything. And they don’t care. One said to me they don’t care if it goes up, they have other properties, but I live here. This is my home, our home!”

A local legend ‘Scott’ and Mick Buchanan have saved several South Rosedale homes. Scott calls by to check she is OK. He’s covered with ash. He races off to help with another outbreak, the radio blaring in his car.

“That guy deserves a medal, truly, he’s saving our houses.”

Driving into North Rosedale, there seem to be even fewer than the “10 houses left standing” that we’d heard about.

A man is hosing his neighbour’s verandah: “We keep hosing it but the flames keep coming back.”

We talk about people storing all their firewood under their timber homes, often next to fuel storage tanks and lawnmowers etc.

“I built my house as instructed by the Eurobodalla Council: steel frame, fire proof glass.”

The house on the other side of his has completely disappeared. “I don’t think they even know yet, there’s no phone reception.”

We notice many of the lovely timber shacks and houses that are still standing do have neat piles of wood, mowers and jerry cans stored under their homes. Homes in an idyllic bush setting.

Today we hear George Bass Drive is closed again. It will be interesting to see how many of those Canberra-owned houses, left uncared for in neighbourhoods of worried locals, will be standing at the end of Summer.

Foreshore burnt at North Broulee

Foreshore burnt at North Broulee.

Andrew Edmonds (far right) and his patrol

We’ve closed the beach to minimise that risk: Andrew Edmonds (far right) and his patrol.

The indestructible coffee pods

Survivors – the indestructible coffee pods.

Driving south towards Moruya on New Year's Day

Driving south towards Moruya on New Year’s Day. This important road is now under threat.

Chopper moving through the smoke

Choppers moving through the smoke above us constantly.

North Rosedale

Power poles burning, wires fallen, trees down, houses smoldering. North Rosedale.

The foreshore at Broulee

The foreshore at Broulee.

On the headland at South Rosedale two homes lie in ashes

On the headland at South Rosedale two homes lie in ashes, while either side the homes are safe.

South Rosedale, New Year's Day

South Rosedale, New Year’s Day.

South Rosedale, New Year's Day.

South Rosedale, New Year’s Day.

South Rosedale, New Year's Day

South Rosedale, New Year’s Day.

South Rosedale, New Year's Day

South Rosedale, New Year’s Day.

The headland at South Rosedale, New Year's Day

Remains. The headland at South Rosedale, New Year’s Day.

Only footings remain

Only footings remain. The headland at South Rosedale, New Year’s Day.

Not much more than streets of twisted roofing metal

Not much more than streets of twisted roofing metal. South Rosedale, New Year’s Day.

North Rosedale

North Rosedale. Nothing but burnt rubble through the trees.

Remains of a house

Twisted, burned remains of houses are a common sight at South Rosedale.

South Rosedale, adjoining the highway

South Rosedale, adjoining the highway.

Built for fire, a wood oven survives in North Rosedale

Built for fire, a wood oven survives in North Rosedale. Photo: Lisa Herbert

Original Article published by Lisa Herbert on About Regional.


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2 Responses to Pictures from the bushfires north of Moruya, worried locals, forgotten houses
Kim Johnston Kim Johnston 8:28 pm 02 Jan 20

If a property is neglected and ill-prepared, photograph it. Insurers will not pay out if an owner has not been diligent. And believe me, they love having any reason not to pay out. You can also report it as a hazard to your local council or your local brigade.

Louise Burgess Louise Burgess 3:50 pm 02 Jan 20

We all have a responsibility to ensure our properties are prepared for bush fires as they don’t discriminate which houses they will raze. I only hope we can all learn (again) from this and recognize our homes are part of communities bigger than the individual blocks.

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