Fire survivor Sharyn Kerrigan at her home in Peregian. Picture: Patrick Woods.
Fire survivor Sharyn Kerrigan at her home in Peregian. Picture: Patrick Woods.

REVEALED: Hard lessons learnt from Peregian fire ordeal

Peregian’s hellish firestorm hit Sharyn Kerrigan’s car as a physical shockwave, buffeting her vehicle and sending her mind racing.

Her immediate thought was – “I’ve made a terrible mistake”.

On a harrowing night in Peregian Beach last September as the sky glowed malevolent, and bushfire raged up Lorikeet St, the local architect was following the emergency evacuation lead of a motorcycle policeman.

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“I thought what just happened then? I’ve left too late.

An image taken by Sharyn Kerrigan of the fire glow approaching before all hell broke loose in Peregian Beach.
An image taken by Sharyn Kerrigan of the fire glow approaching before all hell broke loose in Peregian Beach.

“It was a few moments of awful,” she said.

Thankfully the smoke cleared revealing the policeman who directed Ms Kerrigan and the convoy of neighbours following her hastily heading north to eventual safety.

IT HAPPENS QUICKLY SO BE PREPARED

Ms Kerrigan said what started out as a glow 30 minutes later “looked like the sun had exploded” and what was a glow turned into a raging fire in about minutes”.

“If wetlands can burn like they did that night and smoke can disorient me in a street I have gone down each day for the last 20 years, then it’s time to be more prepared,” she said.

According to the newly released Noosa Council Action Guide you should:

Know your risk and decide in advance and know you evacuation route and have you emergency kit ready to take with you.

Listen out for the emergency alerts on radio, and texts, check council’s disaster dashboard online.

Block your downpipes and fill the gutters with water to help stop ember attack.

Wet down the walls, verandas and nearby shrubbery.

Turn on garden sprinklers for 30 minutes before the fire approaches.

Put on protective clothing and keep access ways clear for firefighting vehicles.

Emergency kit checklist: Fresh water non-perishable food and can opener for three days. First aid kit. Portable radio and spare batteries. Torch. Sturdy gloves. Essential medication. Mobile phone and charger. Important documents in sealed bags and cash. Waterproof bags. Toiletries

Evacuation kit checklist: Blanket and pillows. Sleeping bag. Kids toys/entertainment. Warm clothes. Valuables and mementos

Residents from a fire outbreak along David Low Way, Peregian Beach, near Lorikett Dr
Residents from a fire outbreak along David Low Way, Peregian Beach, near Lorikett Dr

KEEP CLEAR LINE OF COMMUNICATION

Ms Kerrigan hopes in this case the authorities have gained valuable lessons about sending out clearer communications in future emergencies.

“That night was so confusing with the misinformation, friends of ours own the hardware store and they were told it was gone, a local celebrant was told she’s lost her house,” Ms Kerrigan said.

Mayor Clare Stewart at the launch of the disaster ready guide this week.
Mayor Clare Stewart at the launch of the disaster ready guide this week.

FUEL REDUCTION IS NECESSARY

Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart, who chairs the Local Disaster Management Group, is adamant lessons have been taken on board. On Mondat she launched the shire’s first emergency action guide, 56 pages of lifesaving advice.

Produced by council and the Noosa Disaster Management Group, the 56-page guide

Council has almost doubled its budget on fire trail building and maintenance, to $70,024 on and in council bushland reserves.

There has also been a 71 per cent increase in budget for controlled burns on council land, to $83,094.

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Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart is determined for the shire to learn from last year's hard learnt fire lessons.
Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart is determined for the shire to learn from last year's hard learnt fire lessons.

Cr Stewart said the best precautionary measure for residents is to do their own fire mitigation maintenance.

“Clean out your gutters, any overhanging branches … get rid of them,” the mayor said.

“Do what you can to get your property fire ready and keep an eye on the weather.”

The mayor said one of the shortfalls highlighted by the disaster response review was a shortage of bedding in the council’s evacuation centres like The J in Noosa Junction.

As a result, a container load of new emergency beds has arrived this month at council.


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