Margaret and Larry Richmond of Marysville Caravan Park, a Trans-Tasman Family Parks chain member, lost their park, their livelihood and almost their lives in Victoria's fire storm and today they say they are grateful for what they have.
We have each other, we have a home, we have the love of our family and the Parkies have been great, a shaken but determined Margaret said today from their South Australian holiday home in McCracken, South Australia.
Larry was hit by a falling tree as he and Margaret battled to clear fallen timber from the path of their 4WD. The main trunk of the Black Wattle missed him but its limbs hit his head, back, shoulders and arms.
He was covered in blood, Margaret said, but he cleared the timber, jumped back in and just said to me tromp it!
So I did, then I thought our trailer was on fire as there were sparks coming from it, but that was because fallen timber was jammed under the wheels, she said.
We got a flat (tyre) on the trailer, Larry said. I got out to see what I could do and Peter (a local policeman) told me to just unhook it and get out. We did and the trailer survived and the stuff on it didn't burn. It is still there inside the police crime scene, he said.
Margaret and Larry put 14 years into building up the Marysville Caravan Park and lost it in minutes.
Bushfire threat at levels never seen before in Victoria. Courtesy Red Cross
The fire came so quickly, Larry said. At ten to six (Saturday Feb 7) there were a few trees brought down by the strong wind. At ten past six we had to run for our lives, he said.
We could hear the roar and a plume of solid black smoke came from the heart of the fire storm. The State Emergency Service came and told us - you have two minutes to go or you are dead, Larry said.
The power had been out since about 5pm so we had no radio, no nothing. I had the fire hoses ready but I never expected what hit us, Larry said.
Margaret and Larry were the last to leave the caravan park. Tourists and the parks permanents were evacuated at 4pm. They were also among the last to escape the Marysville fire storm as they had police vehicles right behind them.
Something we would do if anything like this happens to us again is leave earlier, Larry told GoSee.
Their insurance company is working through the practical realities of their loss with them and has been wonderful Margaret said
Margaret says she thinks there are perhaps 13 buildings still standing in Marysville
The fire went through so fast. Larry said. It missed some (buildings) and the one next door went up. It was all about which way the wind decided to blow, Larry said.
A Country Fire Authority guy we know went through the Ash Wednesday fires and he says the fire front that hit Marysville made Ash Wednesday look like a campfire, he said.
Larry and Margaret Richmond grateful for what they have
There are some amazing stories from the fire, Larry said. One of our friends drove to the golf course, he had a lucky escape there near where a truck melted and returned to find his house still standing.
But there was no sign of his cat. Three days later there was his cat at the front door, a bit singed about the ears, but very much alive, Larry said.
The Department of Human Services helped Margaret and Larry with a fire relief grant of $7000.
I never got around to bolting our safe down, Larry said so when we left I just picked it up and took it with us. In it was our ID's and personal papers and that helped a lot as the paperwork for fire relief requires a lot of ID, he said.
When we passed through Mulgrave (Melbourne suburb) on our way here (McCracken) we called at Centre Link, they were great, we said we were fire victims and they could not do enough for us, he said.
When we got here (McCracken) our kids (who live in SA) were waiting on the doorstep. They said that all they wanted was for us to come home.
Marysville after the fire storm. Photo Craig Abraham of The Age
Australian generousity shines through in Margaret and Larry's story. An Albury chemist worked at it to first find Margaret's doctor and then get scripts for essential medication faxed through.
At first, distressed, neither wanted to talk about their experience. There are names we know and those people are gone, Margaret said.
Both Margaret and Larry carry the stresses of the experience with them.
I was outside (at McCracken) and an Elvis (fire bomber) came over. That copter has a different sound. I ran inside shaken thinking - there is fire somewhere, Margaret said.
But some things are safe. Most of the family pictures were at the McCracken holiday house. Margaret and Larry have a new grandchild.
One of their Marysville Caravan Park regulars of over eight years married in Marysville. They sent Margaret and Larry a picture of their new child.
As GoSee thanked Margaret and Larry for talking to us about Marysville Larry started to instal a stereo sound system in the McCracken house which they are now making home.
Leafy Marysville before the fire storm
Authentic Post Shop with bullnosed verandah