Widow, 89, returns to fire-ravaged home
AS RESIDENTS returned to fire-ravaged Peregian Beach, Pam Murphy inspected the charred mess that had been her home for 40 years.
Nobody would have blamed the 89-year-old widow for feeling hard done by.
The unprecedented ember storm that hit the evacuated town on Monday night took only her home, sparing all others.
But instead of despair, Mrs Murphy was yesterday finding hope in the "personal treasures" that had survived the blaze.
"We thought everything would have been gone," she told The Courier-Mail from her Plover St property.
"It's quite amazing finding these personal treasures.
"It just gives you that little bit of positivity."
The personal treasures included paintings, antiques from the 1800s and family photos, such as the one of her son before he died overseas.
Still missing was her Burmese cat, Daisy, who'd fled when wild flames started licking at the backyard.
Authorities started letting people back into Peregian early yesterday as firefighters snuffed out the last of the fires.
The Sunshine Coast town quickly came back to life, with residents recounting just how close they had come to complete disaster.
Kyle McManus was relieved to find his house still standing.
"I was expecting there to be just nothing left, " he said.
"It was just amazing what the firemen did when they pulled it off.
"When you left this place you just thought 'it's gone, there's no way it will be here."
Plover St resident Lester Harding had spent a nervous 36 hours wondering if a "blanket of embers" had consumed his home.
He and his wife, Jackie, had stayed to defend their property but fled at the insistence of police on Monday night.
"The embers started coming down on top of us and the sky was golden, like a completely golden blanket," he told The Courier-Mail. "I've never seen anything like it. The police came along screaming to get out, and we jumped in the car and got out."
Arriving back yesterday he found a slightly crisp door, but little other damage.
A worker at IGA, which reopened its doors at 2pm despite rumours of its demise on social media, said she was relieved to still have a job.
"I went to bed Monday night thinking It was all gone," she said.
Acting Chief Superintendent Darryl Johnson said he realised just how close Peregian had come to being wiped off the map.
"Just take a drive along David Low Way today, I think you'll realise just how close it came to being an absolute catastrophic event," he said.
"I'd like to congratulate the fire service on the excellent job that they've done.
"I don't think we'll realise until into the future just how they saved a town here".
At its peak, the Peregian inferno was raging across the equivalent of 540 football fields.
A manageable fire produces 2000 kilowatts of energy. Queensland Fire and Emergency Service Inspector Chris White said his crews were fighting a blaze that was producing 16,000kw of energy at its front, and 4000kw along its flank.
"It was a phenomenally hot fire," he said.
"The speed and the velocity and the amount of embers that were about would have shocked them. "But they did what they did, they persevered. We held our ground."
Crews will remain on the ground in the coming days, keeping an eye on any flare-ups outside the containment lines.
"We have some predicted wind speeds, that may be a problem. But technically, with the (aerial) support that are we hitting this fire with at the moment everything should be blackened in that Peregian area," Insp White said.