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Caravan helps bushfire victims get on with life

Caravan helps bushfire victims get on with life

Caravan helps bushfire victims get on with life

22 July 2020

Central Queensland summer bushfire victim, Therese, says she and husband Charles can get on with rebuilding their lives after help from The Salvation Army.

By Darryl Whitecross

It wasn’t fire but water that turned the lives of a Central Queensland couple upside down during the summer bushfires, which devastated many areas of Australia.

Charles and Terrie lost everything when they believe an aerial water bomber dumped its load on the fires around Mt Maria just before Christmas. Their home – a caravan – and some other equipment on their 16ha Euleilah property were destroyed. Euleilah is about 110km south of Gladstone and 15km north of Mt Maria.

Gladstone Corps Officer Captain Chris Ford said the family was one of many who could potentially “slip between the cracks” when the lists of homes lost in environmental catastrophes occur. Like many in the region, they don’t live in houses but caravans, sheds or other makeshift structures.

Some of the dwellings are thought to be more like shanties than houses and, when official figures show the number of homes as being lost, countless other structures in which people were living are not included.

It has been reported that three homes were destroyed, along with other infrastructure and possessions as the fire claimed about 1500ha in the Mt Maria area.

When The Salvation Army was contacted to see what it could to do help out the struggling family, Chris and the congregation of Gladstone Corps put their collective hand up.

Through the Department of Social Services, The Salvation Army was contacted to see if it could find a replacement caravan for Charlie and Terrie.

Chris said the bushfire in the area reached the edge of their property but it was water from the bombers which “engulfed the caravan” and rendered it “inhabitable”.

The couple had been living in a caravan while they waited to build their cabin-style house on the property, which they are converting into a horse stud farm. They were hoping to use some of the timber on their property in their new home but some of that is unsalvageable now and the sawing machinery destroyed.

The Army had a large pop-top caravan that had been donated to Army by a family in Logan, south of Brisbane, earlier this year, which was perfect. Chris said the corps also was able to donate to the couple a clothes dryer and other household items.

Queensland Strategic Emergency & Disaster Management coordinator Adam Cole presents Terrie with the keys to the caravan.

Terrie said she and Charlie were thankful to The Salvation Army and other agencies that had helped them get back on their feet as they had been living in “a shed with two walls and a dirt floor” since December.

She said the donation of the caravan meant they had a roof over their head again and could “start living a normal life again”.

“I don’t know how to put it into words how if feel. It’s just been life-changing. I honestly and truthfully cannot thank The Salvation Army enough,” Terrie said. “We were told (initially by authorities) we weren’t entitled to any assistance because caravans weren’t accepted as a home.”

She said it was wonderful to no longer have a dirt floor and to be able to get into bed at night without worrying about any small creatures crawling into the bed with her.

“Water leaked through the roof and it’s gone through everything. It was my home,” Terrie said choking back tears. “We’ve just got to pick up and start over. You have good days and you have bad days but we’re slowly getting back to normal. At least now we know we have people who can help; people you can talk to.”

Adam Cole (left) Terrie and Gladstone Corps Officer Captain Chris Ford. 

Terrie described as “horrifying” and “scary” having to witness the fires on their doorstep.

“It (the fire) was at our back fence. All you could see was flames and smoke and, when you couldn’t see the flames, it was just smoke,” she said. “It came so thick and so fast. Watching the helicopters and planes; all the people out here, you can’t describe it. It’s just one of those things you don’t want to go through.”

She said having the caravan and the other donations the Army was able to give the family meant “a lot of stress” had been removed: “You can actually start living your life and not having to scrape by; that you’re not going to freeze in the night and can cook a meal without it being full of dirt.

“Since we’ve been here, we’ve had drought, we’ve had fire ... we’re just waiting for the floods now,” Terrie added, tongue in cheek.

Terrie encouraged anyone still affected by the bushfires to get help. She said there is help available through a number of organisations and agencies, such as The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army still is processing bushfire claims on behalf of the Federal Government.

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