It’s the unluckiest street in Mt Victoria: St Georges Parade, once a secluded cul de sac, meandering through pristine bush near Mt York Road, now a patchwork of blackened ruins interspersed with the survivors, the untouched log cabins or weatherboards which somehow, against all logic, withstood Thursday evening’s firestorm.
On Friday morning, outside one such cottage, a cute weatherboard at number 21, Susan Jeffery stood with Bob Colman, whose estate agency handles the rental property. Both were dumbfounded the house had survived.
“I didn’t expect to see this here at all,” said Mr Colman.
Ms Jeffery felt the same. She had fled at the sign of the first fire engine in the street, taking her chooks and heading to Blackheath Oval. Some of her neighbours stayed but Ms Jeffery explained she was from New Zealand “and I’m not used to this”.
When she returned she had prepared herself for the worst so was surprised to see barely a sign of fire. Her neighbours, however, were not so fortunate.
Right next door was a rammed earth home where the fire-resistant walls stood tall but the inside was a mish-mash of melted furnishings and appliances, peppered with shattered glass.
And across the road lay the remnants of four homes. “That’s the saddest thing,” said Ms Jeffery, “seeing our neighbours’ houses just gone.”
She said one couple had been trying to save their pet chickens and ducks and had loaded the cage into a van. But the fire, whipped up by violent winds, came so quickly they had to flee. The burnt-out van stood in the driveway, the cage still in the back.
Two doors further away from Ms Jeffery, Wai-Ling told the terrifying story of sitting out the fire. “It was too late to leave,” she said. Her housemate stood on the roof, hosing it down, as she shoved soaked towels under the doors.
She said the fire came over the ridge, took out the houses across the street, then seemed to almost part in the middle and travel down either side of her house, leaving the brick building unscathed.
“It was surreal and I’m still walking around in a daze,” she said.
In all, seven houses were lost in St Georges Parade and one, in adjoining Closeburn Drive, lost two cars and the garage.
Further north and north-west, at least one property on the Darling Causeway was destroyed and two properties at Mt Irvine.
President of the Mt Wilson Progress Association, Richard Beattie, said police were providing an escort on Monday to help residents who wanted to evacuate to Sydney via Bilpin. He said the Thursday fire had been “very, very dramatic and scary’’ and the situation was
still volatile, although there had been much back-burning in recent days. He did not know if residents would have another opportunity to leave the area. “It depends on conditions, particularly on the Bells Line of Road, whether it becomes easier to get out or not.”
One thing Mr Beattie was certain of: the annual fund-raiser for the Rural Fire Service, the Mt Wilson/Mt Irvine art and photography show due to be held this weekend, has been postponed to a future date.