Town empties amid fire threat

Town empties amid fire threat

Lakes Entrance resembled a ghost town over the weekend.

From around noon Friday right throughout the weekend, the seaside town was desolate as thousands of tourists and locals alike heeded warnings to evacuate due to the menacing and unpredictable bushfires.

Saturday was expected to be a spike day in the treacherous conditions, however a south-westerley wind change around midday pushed the fires out of Lakes Entrance’s way. Unfortunately that meant difficult times in the High Country and further east.

Last Thursday the local CFA hosted a town meeting where it echoed the State Government’s sentiment, “if you can leave, you must”. Local CFA captain, Phil Loukes, explained the pending weather and detailed some of the horrific conditions crews faced last Monday and Tuesday as fires ravaged Clifton Creek, Sarsfield and Buchan, very nearly reaching the Colquhoun Forest on the north-western edge of Lakes Entrance.

One of the firefighters described the conditions as worse than Black Saturday.

While the town was on its hands and knees, some decided to stay and protect property with a handful of businesses remaining open to service anyone who had remained in town.

Jock McGinty is one of those. He is probably making coffee in his sleep, when he has had time to catch some.

The Bloody Good Coffee shop has stayed open every day over the past week.

“We evacuated from Kalimna West to the shop and have been working and sleeping here,” Jock said.

“It has been flat out and we are exhausted, but then a firey will come in and it brings it into context.

“We decided to keep the shop open to allow some normality for so many locals. They have been coming in and having a coffee and just been able to sit and talk to others.”

The shop was still very busy on Monday morning with locals happy the rain had arrived and they were able to relax.

Jock had stocked up extensively for the Christmas holiday season so has not run out of anything as yet.

“We have one supplier from Pambula, who, of course, we can’t get supplies from. Even the coffee company has been phoning to see how we are going,” he said.

“Woolworths has stayed open too with a skeleton staff, which we have been grateful for.”

Along with Woolworths, Caltex on the Esplanade has remained open for fuel, particularly with firefighters needing to stock up, while pizza place, Pinnochios, fed a hungry few, among other businesses to stay open.

IMAGE: Bloody Good Coffee owner, Jock McGinty, and waitress, Donna Davison, have been putting in some long hours on the coffee machine despite a large portion of the town evacuating last Friday due to the bushfire threat. (PS)