Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Bushfire-ravaged Qld community struggling

A Gold Coast hinterland bushfire has been extinguished, but residents are battling a mammoth and costly task of making their homes liveable again.

October 8, 2019

A month after a massive Gold Coast bushfire destroyed eight on her street, Binna Burra resident Sharon Innis is struggling in the aftermath of the massive blaze.

The 43-year-old cleaner was forced to flee her home of 18 years with just two minute’s notice when the fire raced out of control from Lamington National Park into the tiny hilltop hamlet.

“I didn’t even have shoes on my feet,” she told AAP on Tuesday.

Binna Burra resident Sharon Innis sits on a burned tree stump in front of her fire-damaged home one month after a bushfire swept through the hilltop hamlet destroying 11 neighbouring houses.

Ms Innis’ timber house miraculously survived the blaze, but the extreme heat buckled floors and knocked out the tank-fed plumbing system.

“It’s been sponge baths and bottled water since we were allowed back in,” she said with a laugh.

She’s now facing a mammoth and costly task to make her home liveable, including lopping many of the now unstable trees surrounding her home in a koala corridor.

It’s a job made even tougher after Ms Innis learned St George Bank had cancelled her home insurance two months before the fires after payments were missed without her knowing.

“Others have it much worse. Look at my neighbours who lost everything; look at the farmers in drought,” she said as tears welled in her eyes.

Across the creek, Sophie Bryden, 38, is counting her lucky stars after the blaze was stopped about 100 metres from the home she shares with her seven-year-old son.

She’s become an informal community organiser, helping to connect fire-affected residents with badly-needed assistance as they try to get on with life in the lunar-like landscape.

Binna Burra resident Sophie Bryden stands in front of burned bush across the road from her home one month after a massive blaze swept through the hilltop hamlet where she lives with her son.

“Many of these families were doing it tough before the fire,” she says.

“Now they’re lumbered with the added expense of rebuilding fences, felling burned trees and cleaning rooves of potentially toxic ash so they can collect water in their tanks again.”

Ms Bryden praised the local community for its efforts to help, but was scathing of state and federal authorities, citing as a joke a $180 one-off payment for people, like herself, who were evacuated from their homes for days.

“The fire trucks have gone, the media outlets have left and the many support services have all packed up, but the people are still struggling,” she said.

A destroyed home next door to Binna Burra resident Sharon Innis’ home one month after a bushfire swept through hilltop hamlet.

Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen says many residents face a tough road to full recovery.

Not only is there a lot of work to do which will require expert help, such as decontaminating rooves so they can again be used to collect drinking water, but the region also remains bone-dry with many hot days ahead.

“It’s very hard to what to do next when you can’t see a clear path,” he said

The 18-day fire event, which began on September 6, burned through about 6000 hectares in the Gold Coast hinterland.

The view from Sharon Innis’ street across the Lamington National Park, where smoke can still be seen rising one month after a bushfire swept through the Gold Coast hinterland park.

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