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Some of the RFS crew. Image: Lynne Mowbray

Co-ordinating the Nymboida fire devastation

Lynne Mowbray|

Gray Stride is the director of the Nymboida Camping and Canoeing centre and chief co-ordinator at the recovery hub, which is situated in the grounds.

Mr Stride said that the word devastating was an understatement, when it came to describing the fire which ripped through the village of Nymboida four weeks ago.

“Everyone’s got their own story,” Mr Stride said.

“I didn’t have a fire pump or spare generator and all that kind of stuff and I knew that my place was probably going to go, so I evacuated.

“When I returned home I was lucky enough that it was still there – I’m one of the lucky ones.

“I came back on the Saturday (to the Nymboida Camping and Canoeing Centre), and I’ve been here on the ground, every day since.

“The first week was an absolute rollercoaster and for me it was just about getting the community together, getting them water and just making sure that everyone was alright.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have everything, or have lost everything – you still felt it.

“The wider community has been unbelievable; they kept us alive for the first two weeks.

“They gave us water and food – all those essential things we needed.

“Now, people are slowly starting to get their lives into what’s going to be the new normality – we’re calling it.

“Basically after Christmas we’re going to be looking at cleaning up this mess and slowly putting the Lego blocks back together again.

“As for food and clothing; we probably don’t need so much anymore.

“People have got the basics of what they need now and they only need enough to get them by. The people who don’t have houses, they’re not going to turn around and get a big wardrobe of clothes. They’re happy to have a couple of pairs of trousers, a couple of shirts and a pair of shoes.

“We’re looking at things now that can help us put everything back together.

“We’ve got some fantastic donations of water tanks, but there’s lots of big stuff and little stuff like storm water piping and storm water fittings, poly pipes etc.

“At the moment it’s just helping put the little things back together, so that people can survive; like hooking their shed up to a water tank again so that if it does rain, fingers crossed, we can get a little bit of water back in their tank. And a hose so that they can keep a couple of trees alive – just those little things to start with and then as time goes on, I mean this is going to be a two to three year journey – this is not going to be over tomorrow.

“The last count (of homes lost) that I heard, in the Nymboida area, was 90.

“So for us in this community, we’re looking at about one in three, have disappeared.

“Because of where we are and the kind of people we are, we’ve got quite a few of those who are uninsured. They didn’t have that average three bedroom brick veneer home that you have in the suburbs; it was something that they built with their own hands, maybe 30 or 40 years ago.

So it’s going to be really hard to get some of those people back into a building again – it’s going to be a long road.

“Lots of things have changed (with building codes) since the 70’s and we’ve got to comply with that and so this is going to be a long road.

“I’m leading the co-ordination of the effort here on the ground, but underneath me I’ve got about eight or nine co-ordinators.

“So if anyone wants to get in touch with us, they can contact myself (Gray Stride) through the Nymboida Fire Survivors Facebook page and depending what service you’re offering, I’ll put you in touch with one of the co-ordinators and they can tell you what we need, what we want and when we want them basically.

“That way we won’t end up with 14 ton of stuff we don’t want and nothing of what we really, really need.

“Some of those who have lost everything are slowly coming to terms with it but others just rocked home yesterday and are seeing their home gone for the first time, so everyone’s going to take a different time to deal with it.

“Some will get over it easily, some will get over it next year or the year after and I’ve already got people that are not going to get over it and are going to leave. They can’t deal with it emotionally, it’s just too hard.

“I just want people to know and understand that we are going to need a little bit of help.

“I’ve learnt quite a few lessons in life and one is, ‘if you need help, ask for it’ and come next year 2020 – I guarantee, I will be asking.

Four weeks after the bush fire ravaged the village of Nymboida, this tree across the road from the Nymboida Camping and Canoeing Centre is still burning. Image: Lynne Mowbray
The communtiy of Nymboida gathered on Saturday to share their concerns and stories of the fire, with the Governor general. Image: Lynne Mowbray