Creswick residents head to fire refuges

More than 100 people were evacuated yesterday as fires threatened properties north-east of Ballarat.

The Newlyn Recreation Reserve was one of two evacuation centres which became refuge for residents and tourists during yesterday’s fires at Creswick.

A group of 60 people who were part of a dental manufacturing conference and 50 schoolchildren were among those who evacuated to Newlyn yesterday.

A wind change forced those staying at Novotel Resort off the Midland Highway to be evacuated as a precautionary measure. 

Many of those staying at the resort were impressed with the organisation by local authorities to evacuate everyone in a timely and stress-free manner.

Arriving only hours before the fire broke out, Sarah Jull said it was a well-organised evacuation. 

“We’re not at all worried, it’s all been very well organised,” she said.

School children between years seven and 10 from a Christian camp were also evacuated during their first day of a week-long camp.

With some students from as far as Perth, camp leader Daniel Matthys said the parents ringing in were more worried than the children about the oncoming fires.

“We only arrived this morning and were just about to start our first day of activities before we were told to leave,” he said.

During the afternoon, those taking refuge at the recreation reserve were given bottled water, food and regular updates on the fire’s progress.

With the fire fast approaching, a local family made the decision to leave their 1.2 hectare property and take refuge at the evacuation centre.

Heather Koenig and her son Declin packed the car with the bare essentials yesterday afternoon and fled early.

“You could see the winds change and all of a sudden you couldn’t see past the trees on our property so we decided it was safer to leave,” Mrs Koenig said

“We purely had to leave because the whole family wasn’t there.”

With two other children away and her husband travelling back from Ararat, Mrs Koenig managed to grab hard drives containing family photos, personal files and a small amount of dog food before heading for the evacuation centre.

“Every summer we have good intentions to be organised, but you can’t get everything. It was hard, I was just thinking of random things to grab,” she said.

“We got the sleeping bags, a change of clothes, the dogs and just went.”

After setting up the hose to spray water on the house, Ken Koenig meet his wife at the evacuation centre.

“My adrenaline was running, it’s really hard to imagine what it’s like until you get there and then all the thoughts in your head and fire plans come into action,” he said.

alicia.thomas@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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