By Margie Maccoll
“It’s hell,” is how Brian Williams describes the past seven months of his life since a bushfire destroyed his home and Covid-19 took away 60-70 per cent of his business.
It was in dramatic fashion that the fire descended on the Lake Cooroibah Road home Brian shared with his 18-year-old son Beau and the property they had earmarked for 19 holiday units.
Beau was home studying for Year 12 exams when he called his father, an electrician, who was on his way to a job in Mooloolaba, to say the bushfire was upon the property.
Brian turned around and headed for home as fast as he could.
After wetting down as much of the property he could Beau made a dash down a bush track to a nearby lake running alongside kangaroos and other wildlife also fleeing for their lives.
Brian made it back to the area, located his son through the smoke and they escaped the flames together.
But returning to their normal lives has become a living nightmare for Brian who has had to contend with prolonged council approval processes, difficulties finding short-term affordable accommodation and the loss of work due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Having lost all their documents including birth certificates in the fire has further complicated the situation.
“You just can’t move on,” he said. “There’re too many issues. It’s really huge.
“When you lose everything it’s a big chunk of life you need to replace fast.
“It’s like a mind game you haven’t dealt with before.”
Brian and Beau had been living on temporary accommodation on their property, expecting to receive approval on 17 November just weeks after the fire to begin construction on their holiday units. Because of their situation they were unable to obtain house insurance and only had contents insurance, Brian said.
He said changed council building requirements including new fire regulations have meant his building plans have required alterations and extended the approval process.
In the meantime much of Brian’s work that involves servicing rental houses, resorts and holiday houses has dried up due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Everything relies on tourism in Noosa,” he said. “Every business in Noosa has been affected.”
Fortunately Beau was able to graduate Year 12 and is working at a local restaurant while he takes a gap year from study.
Brian said both he Beau were thankful of the support they had received from local people and assistance from St Vincent de Paul and the Red Cross to help cut down burnt trees and remove burnt buildings.
“We’re very grateful of the help we’ve received,” he said.
“At least we haven’t lost a life. We can be grateful we just lost material things.”
A report by the Bushfires Royal Commission into the 2019-2020 extreme bushfire season is due for release at the end of August.