Albany Extra - - Front Page - Saskia Adysti

Red­mond Vol­un­teer Bush­fire Bri­gade mem­ber Dy­lan Mostert, pic­tured last Fri­day morn­ing af­ter a long night shift, was among hun­dreds of vol­un­teer bush fire­fight­ers who worked tire­lessly through the night last Thurs­day and Fri­day, bat­tling 50 bush­fires which flared in the Al­bany and Den­mark re­gions. On be­half of ev­ery­one, we say “thank you”.

“We could have died” — fam­ily tells of har­row­ing es­cape as their home is lost to flames.

A fam­ily who lost their home in last week’s bush­fire say they are just grate­ful to be alive.

If not for neigh­bour Rob Sut­ton, as re­ported in Tues­day’s Al­bany Ad­ver­tiser, Agnes and Dave Hurle and their two chil­dren may have per­ished in the Napier fire which tore through bush­land north-east of Al­bany, de­stroy­ing their two-storey home.

The fires burned more than 17,000ha, fanned by northerly-winds gust­ing to 100km/h.

Mrs Hurle said the bush­fire hit without warn­ing on Thurs­day.

“There were no warn­ings, no alerts, so I didn’t even bother pack­ing things up,” she said.

“Next thing we heard was our neigh­bour Rob, knock­ing on our bed­room win­dows telling us to get out.”

Mr Sut­ton, an Al­bany coun­cil­lor, self­lessly rode his quad-bike to his neigh­bours’ house to warn them of the rapidly ap­proach­ing fire front.

Af­ter hear­ing the news, Mr and Mrs Hurle ran straight to their daugh­ters’ room to wake them up and called neigh­bour Grant Gunn, about 250m away.

Mr Gunn, who worked as a fire fighter for more than 30 years, told Mr Hurle he would stay to de­fend his prop­erty.

But Mr Hurle de­cided to evac­u­ate his fam­ily im­me­di­ately from the house they had only moved into less than a year ago.

“We were still wear­ing our py­ja­mas, but we had to act im­me­di­ately, so we put the girls and the dogs into the car and left straight away,” he said.

“As we drove out it was dusty and smoky and we could see the glow of the fire com­ing and the fire trucks on their way towards our house.

“We’ve since re­alised that it took about ten to twenty min­utes for the fire to hit our house. By the time the fire­fight­ers got there, they were ad­vised not to go in as they would be en­dan­ger­ing them­selves.”

Mr Hurle’s fam­ily was the first group to be evac­u­ated into Al­bany Leisure and Aquatic Cen­tre.

We can’t go around to thank any­one in­di­vid­u­ally, but we do say ‘thank you’ to all of them. Agnes Hurle

An hour af­ter be­ing evac­u­ated, Mr Hurle re­ceived a phone call from his neigh­bour to break the news that their home had been lost.

The fam­ily re­turned to the prop­erty on Sun­day to see what was left of it.

“I thought I was go­ing to be more up­set — I don’t know why we’re still not feel­ing much about it,” Mrs Hurle said.

She said she also didn’t feel much emo­tion when she stood amid the ru­ins of her home.

“We’d seen the photo — so it wasn’t a sur­prise when we got out there,” she said.

“I think it’s be­cause we’re quite ra­tio­nal about it. When you ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing like that, your body goes into sur­vival mode and you think very clearly.

“It was a cri­sis that put us here but we’re still stand­ing here alive, and we can re­build our house again in the fu­ture.”

The cou­ple said the com­mu­nity sup­port in re­cent days had been ex­tra­or­di­nary.

“My col­leagues from work gath­ered some do­na­tions for us, some clothes and even some toys for the kids,” Mrs Hurle said.

“Those things re­ally brought tears to our eyes.”

They even had to turn down do­na­tions be­cause they did not know where to store some of the items.

“The com­mu­nity has been so gen­er­ous, even though we haven’t been here for that long,” she said.

“The only real mes­sage that we want to get out is to show how the com­mu­nity has been re­ally sup­port­ive and re­ally gen­er­ous to us.

“We can’t go around to thank any­one in­di­vid­u­ally, but we do say ‘thank you’ to all of them.”

Pic­tures: Lau­rie Ben­son and Al­lis­ter Dick­son

Pic­tures: Lau­rie Ben­son

The house in Napier de­stroyed by fire.

The fam­ily had moved into their two-storey home less than a year ago.

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