Blaze of anger hits tourists

Blaze of anger hits tourists  

05 October 2011

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Australia — RAGING Fraser Island bushfires started by a controlled burn gone wrong have infuriated and upset holiday-makers on the island.

The fires ripped through dense bushland on Sunday afternoon, threatening Kingfisher Bay Resort and cutting access tracks.

One witness described an area of burnt-out bushland south of the resort as like a nuclear winter.

Geoff Newall made the long trip to the Island from his home in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and had planned to camp on the island with family and friends but had his holiday cut abruptly short.

Camping on the eastern side of the island, Mr Newall drove to Kingfisher Bay resort on Sunday for a whale-watching trip.

Once at sea he said he looked back and could see smoke and fires building on the island.

“I could not believe it,” he said.

“We had just been given flyers saying controlled burning was under way, but what we saw looked out of control.

“After the whale-watch trip we tried to drive back to our camp on the ocean side.

“We were just out of the resort and the smoke was getting thicker and thicker.

“We had to turn back and we’re lucky we did.

“We heard of other people with burnt paint and a melted snorkel, the fire was that intense.

“We saw the upset passengers getting off the tour bus, one lady was shaking, she was absolutely terrified.

“Her partner said they saw fire on both sides of the bus.

“I’m so glad we turned back.”

Mr Newall said he was frustrated to be stuck on the western side of the island, away from his campsite.

“Fair enough, we can’t help it if there’s a bushfire, but why did they light it in school holidays and when it was that windy?” he said.

Another group, the Grassmayr and Dillaway families, also from Sydney, said they were upset not to have been informed of the fires prior to arriving on the island.

With a holiday house booked at Kingfisher Bay Resort, Stephen Grassmayr said it wasn’t until he arrived on the island that he was told the houses had been evacuated.

“We have two families here, with five kids,” he said.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a year; why didn’t they have signage over on the mainland or tell us the island was on fire?” Mr Grassmayr said.

“We had the house booked for three days – when we got here reception told us the houses had been fully evacuated.”

Mr Grassmayr said the resort had made a full refund and had co-operated fully, however he said the ordeal had put a dampener on the holiday.

He had also heard the fires started from a controlled burn and questioned why it was allowed to happen.

Mr Grassmayr said after the 2½-day trip from Sydney the families would head to Hervey Bay and make plans for the rest of their holidays.

“We’ll make the most of it,” he said. “But it has been very disappointing for us.”

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