Tag: Lake Conjola

14 people and 2 dogs piled in to a tinny meant for 6 as flames lapped at the shore

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A New South Wales South Coast man has been hailed a “local hero” for ferrying stranded campers to safety on his boat, forced to watch as his own house burnt down.

Key points:

  • Seven children, seven adults and two dogs stayed on the 5-metre boat for three hours
  • They used clothing to cover their mouths and noses as smoke billowed around them
  • Three bodies have been found in the Lake Conjola area amid the South Coast fires

While fleeing the approaching firestorm on Tuesday, Lake Conjola resident Brett Cripps, 51, noticed tourists stuck on the shore near their caravans.

“I knew I had to help. I yelled out, ‘come on, you’ve got to get out of here’,” Mr Cripps told the ABC.

He loaded two families onto his 5-metre boat, including seven children aged from three to 10, and whisked them away from the oncoming flames and to the centre of the lake.

Jillie Flaxman, her husband and four children, from New South Wales’ Central Coast, were one of the families.

They were on a five-week holiday and settled along the bank of Lake Conjola.

The family were staying at a friends’ property accompanied by Ms Flaxman’s sister, her husband and three children.

On New Year’s Eve, Mr Cripps’ 75-year-old father was helping him pack the boat to evacuate when he spotted embers from the bush across the road jump and start a huge fire next to a row of five properties, including his.

On the other side was Ms Flaxman and her family.


Jillie Flaxman with her husband and four children on holiday. (Facebook: Jillie Flaxman)

At midday, Ms Flaxman said her family rapidly became engulfed by fire and were trapped.

“I could just see fire and smoke in front of us,” she said.

“We [Ms Flaxman and her sister] loaded the seven kids into the separate caravans and tried to keep them calm.”

She soon thought it was better for them to evacuate.

They had no form of communication with the outside world at that time.

“We loaded everything into the car, [we] were going to try and leave.

“I couldn’t see my husband or brother-in-law, but I heard my brother-in-law yell out, ‘Get the kids to the jetty!'”

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RESCUED BY SOME LOCAL HERO IN A BOAT! THIS GUY SAVED OUR FAMILY! Even though their house was completely destroyed by fire only minutes before…

That’s when she heard Mr Cripps’ voice coming from the water. He yelled: “Get the kids here!”

“We owe Brett our lives,” Ms Flaxman said.

“He could have easily left us there, but he said he could hear our screams on the shore.

“[The boat] wasn’t even close to the jetty. We we’re literally chucking kids over the water into the boat.”

For almost three hours, the group of seven children, seven adults and two dogs sat in a boat meant for six on the lake, as fire surrounded them on both banks.

As surrounding bushland was engulfed, Mr Cripps watched his own home of 50 years go up in flames.

On the boat, they used clothing to shield their mouths and noses from the smoke.

“We made sure the kids had tea towels covering their mouths and were drinking plenty of water on the boat,” Ms Flaxman said.

“It was three hours of hell,” Mr Cripps said.

“It was like an inferno; we were about 500 yards away on the water and could still feel the immense heat.

“We lost everything.”


Brett Cripps’ property is west of Lake Conjola in New South Wales. (Supplied: Brett Cripps)

‘Fifty years of memories gone. It’s hard’


Mr Cripps’ home was gutted by the fire while the group watched on from the water. (Supplied: Brett Cripps)

On the boat, Mr Cripps said he was amazed at how well the young kids were handling the situation.

“The children were amazing, so composed,” he said.

“Their parents should be proud of them.”

Everyone was in a state of shock but for Mr Cripps, the added blow of seeing his home on fire was hard to take.

“Fifty years of memories gone. It’s hard,” he said.

“My dad’s car was incinerated. Mine was OK, but I’m going back to look for my car keys.”

Like ‘a war zone’


The fire seen from the boat. (Supplied: Jillie Flaxman)

Ms Flaxman said locals were riding on jet skis and were in boats yelling out to anyone who needed their help New Year’s Eve.

“Everyone pitched in and did what they could. The community spirit there is so strong.”

The Lake Conjola community was left devastated this week when three bodies were found in the area as a result of the fires on the South Coast.

On Wednesday a 70-year-old man was also found dead outside a home west of Lake Conjola.

On New Year’s Eve, convoys of cars were forced into the water to avoid fire along the lake.

Mr Cripps said the winds had been north-westerly that day before lunchtime, and he thought the fire was contained.

Then northerly winds intensified, as did the fire, which he said then “jumped over the Princes Highway towards west Conjola”.

“We couldn’t have fought it; nothing could have prepared us for this,” he said.

“It was purely unbelievable.”


A car destroyed on Mr Cripps’ property. (Supplied: Brett Cripps)

Both of the young families and Mr Cripps’ relatives made it back to shore safely.

He said other Lake Conjola community members also raced to help those stranded on the shoreline.

When Ms Flaxman and her family arrived safely to shore they were taken the nearest caravan park for assistance.

“We entered that caravan park like we had just come from a war zone.”

Inside the refuge of the caravan park, she said the community welcomed them wholeheartedly.

“That afternoon I looked at my sister and said, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to feed the kids’.”

But locals offered them food and clothing and even a hamper to take.

Ms Flaxman and her family are currently on a loaded bus heading north to evacuate the South Coast.

“We’re currently wearing other people’s clothes at the moment but the main thing is we’re all safe.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘The number of lives lost will climb’: Seven dead, 176 homes destroyed in NSW bushfires

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Seven people have died and 176 homes have been destroyed by devastating bushfires that hit southern New South Wales on Wednesday.

Key points:

  • Death toll expected to rise as number of people killed reaches seven
  • RFS says 176 homes have been destroyed with 89 homes lost in Conjola Park
  • Karen Lissa thought she was going to die when a bushfire swept through her street

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) confirmed that three more bodies had been found after the earlier deaths of four people.

On Wednesday, the bodies of a father and son were found in Cobargo — it is believed they died while trying to defend their property.

The body of a man was found in a burnt-out car on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah near Lake Conjola.

Volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul, 28, died after his truck flipped in the Green Valley blaze in Jingellic, 70 kilometres east of Albury near the NSW-Victoria border.


The remains of a home at Conjola Park after a bushfire swept through on New Year’s Eve. (ABC News: Selby Stewart)

NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys on Wednesday said three more bodies were found at Lake Conjola.

“Sadly, we can report today that police have confirmed a further three deaths as a result of the fires on the South Coast,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.

“Police are also at Lake Conjola now, where a house has been destroyed by fire and the occupant of that home is still unaccounted for. This goes on the back of the four deaths reported yesterday.”

A 70-year-old man was found dead outside a home 6km west of Lake Conjola.

The body of a man was found in a vehicle in Sussex Inlet this morning while a body was found outside a home at Coolagolite.

Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man remains unaccounted for at Belowra, about 50km north west of Cobargo, and a 70-year-old woman remains unaccounted for at Conjola Park.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he expected the death toll to rise this afternoon.

“The preliminary advice is that we will, sadly, see the number of people, the number of lives lost, that will climb this afternoon,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

The RFS also confirmed at least 176 homes had been destroyed.

More bushfire coverage:

Some of the worst loses were suffered in Conjola Park, where 89 homes were destroyed, and Malua Bay, where 40 homes were lost.

Deputy RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said that total was “by no means the end”.

‘You just got through all these emotions’

Video: Karen Lissa describes the moment a bushfire swept through her street

(ABC News)

Lake Conjola resident Karen Lissa said she thought she was going to die when a bushfire swept through her street.

“You just go through all these emotions,” she said.

“You think ‘I’m gonna die’.

“We’re lucky. Just really grateful that we’re alive and we’ve got our house.

“I’ve never seen this. So many homes lost, this is devastating.”

Some residents were not as lucky, as towns ravaged by bushfires were left “unrecognisable” and thousands of NSW South Coast residents and travellers remained anxious as authorities began a stocktake of Wednesday’s devastation.

Helen Dwyer said there was hardly any time to react as her retirement home was destroyed.

“We didn’t have time to pack anything. We probably weren’t as well prepared as we should have been … it was just so ferocious and quick,” she said.

“We sat down at the lake most of the day, and came back up in the evening and can’t believe how many, in our street, all the houses that’ve gone.”

Karen Freer from Canberra remained stranded in Batehaven, just outside Batemans Bay.

Her phone battery had died and like many across the coastal towns, she was anxious about what would happen next.

“There’s no internet, we cannot access the RFS website and I know everyone is doing their absolute best, but we have no information,” Ms Freer said.

“We don’t know where the fire is … we just don’t know the current situation.”


Evacuees on a beach at Batemans Bay amid the bushfire threat. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

Federal MP Fiona Phillips said the scale of destruction in the Batemans Bay area had been enormous.

“It’s just been absolute devastation,” she said.

“The building loss we believe around the Batemans Bay area and Mogo is in the hundreds. It’s very, very significant.

“The industrial area at Batemans Bay has certainly suffered significant damage and the Mogo CBD is unrecognisable.”


A woman stares at the ruins of her home at Conjola Park. (ABC News)

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said it was too early to determine the extent of the damage, but “was aware of heavy tolls in terms of damage and destruction”.

Video: Fire crews from Station 509 Wyoming share footage of moments before their truck was overrun by a fire front south of Nowra

(ABC News)

Residents forced to flee to the beach

Also particularly hit was Conjola Park, north of Ulladulla, where early assessments showed more than 50 properties were completely razed.

The Currowan bushfire ripped through the region on New Year’s Eve, forcing many residents to flee to the beach.


A Batemans Bay home which was ravaged by fire on New Year’s Eve. (ABC News)

Dozens of cars in the Lake Conjola area, north of Ulladulla, were also seen by an ABC reporter to be destroyed in the region.

He said cars were found melted in the street and paint from vehicles was draining down the road.

Large trees were seen fallen across roads in the town and powerlines were down.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it had been “a very horrible day for NSW in terms of the fire conditions”.


The ruins of a house destroyed by fire in Batemans Bay. (ABC News)

She said fire crews would be taking advantage of easing weather conditions to conduct backburning and restored power to critical infrastructure.

More than 100 fires were burning in the state this morning, seven of those at watch and act level.

On Tuesday, residents south of Nowra were warned they could be without power or telecommunications for two days.

“We ask people not to worry if they can’t contact their loved ones or friends,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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