From disaster to dream home at Yellow Rock

Kahli Bowman with her six-month-old son Brady, daughters Rori and Lacey and son Jimmy in the backyard of their rebuilt dream home in Yellow Rock last Friday.
Kahli Bowman with her six-month-old son Brady, daughters Rori and Lacey and son Jimmy in the backyard of their rebuilt dream home in Yellow Rock last Friday.
Kahli Bowman with her children Rori, Lacey, (holding) Brady and Jimmy last Friday, freshly settled into their rebuilt dream home in Yellow Rock.

Kahli Bowman with her children Rori, Lacey, (holding) Brady and Jimmy last Friday, freshly settled into their rebuilt dream home in Yellow Rock.

Jimmy Bowman was delighted to be back home in Yellow Rock last Friday.

Jimmy Bowman was delighted to be back home in Yellow Rock last Friday.

The Bowman family's beautiful rebuilt home featuring an extra storey.

The Bowman family's beautiful rebuilt home featuring an extra storey.

Yellow Rock mother of four Kahli Bowman has to pinch herself these days.

But she reckons the reality of moving into her family's "dream home" - almost one year to the day after the original and three others in her street were destroyed by bushfire - might just be starting to sink in.

The Bowman family's tale is one that may offer a sense of renewal to many other residents on an anniversary likely to trigger painful memories.

On October 17, 2013 Mrs Bowman and her children Lacey, (then aged) five, Rori, three, Jimmy, one and their pet cocker spaniel were at their Illingworth Road home when they spotted billowing smoke in the distance at about 2.30pm.

At 3.10pm a neighbour told her Singles Ridge Road was completely closed as a rapidly advancing fire had already destroyed homes on Buena Vista Road and was heading towards Yellow Rock.

"My husband Ross was away at a job in Western Australia at the time and here I was, 11 weeks pregnant, at home with our three young children watching the neighbour's house burn down and our timber deck and pool deck starting to go up in flames.

"It was terrifying - I'd never seen anything like that before.

"We all stayed in the bathroom and when we heard sirens I waved down an RFS fire truck on its way back up the road and the crew took us up to Winmalee.

"We ended up at my mother's place that night and we returned later to find our house was gone."

Fortunately for the Bowmans, they happened to be just one week away from lodging a development application to council to build a second storey extension to their home.

"Our local builder Andrew Milton said why not rebuild the house and also add the planned second level at the same time, so we did.

"That's why things were able to happen so quickly and we could return to live not only in a rebuilt home, but our dream home.

"We stayed in an Emu Plains rental home when construction started in March this year, Brady was born in April and our new home was completed at the end of September, ready to move into.

"It's so good to be back."

Mrs Bowman said the community's generosity and support blew her away.

"That's the biggest factor in why we've decided to stay in Yellow Rock because you can have bushfires just about anywhere in Australia but you can't always find this kind of community anywhere.

"We were able to set ourselves up thanks to donations from friends, the community and donations to Ellison Public School [Lacey's school] that were kindly passed on to us.

We ended up with so much it was unbelievable, that kindness - and the RFS volunteers and utilities crews were so amazing that I can't say enough good things about them.

"I think since the bushfire there's been a strengthening of community relationships.

"It's always been there, but I notice it more now."

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the bushfire, Mrs Bowman said "every time I drive down my street I think about how one place or another was on the day of the fire and how different it looks now - you can't really stop thinking about it sometimes".

"But it's so beautiful to see this area and all the trees that were burnt become all green again and to see so much reconstruction going on."