A WANGARATTA family, who were shipped out from Mallacoota by the Navy, say they’re just thankful to be alive after having endured the devastating fires that wreaked havoc at the popular seaside hamlet.
The Grant family have made the destination their holiday spot for over a decade but never imagined they would be in the middle of one of the most catastrophic fires in Victoria during the New Year period.
Mum Jo said nothing could describe the scenes they witnessed when they were alerted the fire would hit the town on December 30.
“There was a yellow plume of smoke and 15 minutes after the sky was red then it just went pitch black,” she told the Wangaratta Chronicle.
“We based ourselves in-between the ocean and lake, we just had to stick it out.”
The family chose not to leave as they feared the roads would be consumed by the fires and were backed up with traffic.
Daughter Elizabeth said in the early hours of the morning on New Year’s Eve sirens went off warning of the fire’s approach and it came within 100 metres of the caravan park they had been staying at.
“The scariest part was when it went black and we couldn’t see what was going on, but we knew it was here,” she said.
“I wouldn’t wish a fire on anyone, but we learnt a lot about what is important and how lucky we are.”
Elizabeth said that it was incredibly hard to process the devastation caused to the town in the aftermath and the family were completely overwhelmed by the disaster.
“A lot of smoke, ash and embers all over the ground, it’s pretty confronting seeing the fire damage across the town,” she said.
The family had been in Mallacoota since mid-December and planned to stay until late January.
The Navy vessel, HMAS Choules, on Friday evacuated hundreds of stranded tourists and sent in urgent supplies for the town as road access had been cut off.
The vessel arrived in Hastings on Saturday afternoon much to the delight of those evacuees on board.
The Grant family were set to return to Wangaratta today having spent time with relatives in Melbourne.
“If we didn’t take the Navy out we could have been stuck here until the middle of February because there is only one road in and out,” Elizabeth said.