How camaraderie counts when fire danger looms

“I thought down there I could make a cup of tea for everyone” … Sussex Inlet resident Janice Carradus.As the fires around Sussex Inlet burned on Tuesday night and nearby roads were closed, one couple received an automated call to evacuate and had to quickly decide what to bring along.

Amidst important documents, jewellery and clothes Janice Carradus packed two kettles to take to the evacuation centre at the local bowling club, leaving the mixmaster behind at her husband’s request.

“I thought down there I could make a cup of tea for everyone,” she said.

At one stage the Sussex Inlet Bowling Club was filled with about 130 people who had left their homes, many from the Inasmuch Retirement Village where older residents took precautions by leaving early.

Approximately 28 people stayed overnight and the atmosphere was calm according to Alan Schofield, who supervised the evacuees at the bowling club.

“Not knowing what was happening was the hardest part,” he said. People wanted to know how close the fires were burning.

Over at the Sussex Inlet RSL Club the crowd was larger and a lot rowdier with about 600 people and animals all over the centre – including dogs, cats and a chicken.

Anxious about the situation, children were kept distracted by playing hide-and-seek while RSL workers and The Salvation Army handed out free soft drinks and food.

“We had a lot of kids in the snooker room,” said RSL attendant Tracy Moore. “People were all over the spot.”

Many of the evacuees were tourists staying in nearby caravan parks and about 80 people stayed overnight, sleeping on the floor and around the poker machines.

Although people were getting alerts from the police, there was a lot of confusion and concern. Another RSL attendant, Andrew Ferguson, left to evacuate his own house with his wife and little girl at 3pm. When he returned at 5pm, the place was filling up.

“There was a lot of camaraderie and everyone was helping each other out,” he said.

Out on the water in a boat nearby, tourist Lynda Stedman could see the fires burning and was called back to shore. It wasn’t the first holiday to disrupt her family: “I was stuck in the QLD floods last year and this year it’s bush fires. Next year, we’re not going anywhere!”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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