’What will I do?’ New mum’s bushfire hell


Zoe Colligan, 20, was lucky to walk away alive with her one week old son Archer after a firestorm burned down her home in Koorainghat, just outside Taree.

Two people are dead, five are unaccounted and at least 30 are injured as fires roared through the NSW mid north coast. Parts of Queensland’s south east have also been affected by the blazes.

A man was discovered inside a burnt out car this morning at the Kangawalla fire, near Glen Innes in NSW, while Vivian Chaplain died in hospital after being found overnight with severe burns.

Ms Chaplain, a grandmother of six, is the first named victim of the fires.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has warned that there will likely be more fatalities to come as access is gained to devastated properties.

The fires are so fierce smoke from them has been seen 2000 kilometres away on New Zealand’s South Island.

BUSHFIRE LATEST: Follow news.com.au’s live coverage of the devastating fires

Ms Colligan’s home was consumed by flames late Friday, leaving her and her newborn homeless.

“We were all keeping an eye on the fire, which was on the other side of the highway,” Ms Colligan told news.com.au.

“The wind changed and we got a text message alert saying the fire had jumped to our side. “That’s when me and bub got out of there, but my partner’s parents stayed back to try and protect the house and animals.”

Zoe Colligan, with her newborn Archer. She and her new bub fear they are now homeless. Picture: FacebookSource:Supplied

Ms Colligan said the fire crept up on her property within the space of an hour, destroying the converted shed she and her partner had lived in together for the past 12 months on the property of her in laws.

“The fire just took over our shed and the reached over to some of the main house,” she explained.

“We have lost everything. All our clothes. Everything we had for our bub and all our furniture.

“The whole shed where we lived and the stables is gone. When part of the main house got on fire, that’s when my mum and dad-in-law had to get out of there.”

Zoe gave birth just eight days ago. Picture: Facebook

Zoe gave birth just eight days ago. Picture: FacebookSource:Supplied

Zoe and her partner Ryan who have become parents and lost their home in a little over a week. Picture: Facebook

Zoe and her partner Ryan who have become parents and lost their home in a little over a week. Picture: FacebookSource:Supplied

TERRIFYING, SCARY

Ms Colligan said she’d never experienced a fire like what tore through her town on Friday.

“It was terrifying … scary … we are in a bit of a shock,” she said.

“We have bare essentials at the moment, some nappies, some clothes and a bit of food.”

The first time mum said she and her partner will be staying in an Air BnB in Lansdowne, near Taree, until they are able to find our more information about what’s left of their home.

“We haven’t heard anything more today … the whole area is still on fire,” she said.

“We have no idea what to do. To have a baby eight days old and this on top … it’s not what you want.

“We are now just waiting to hear news from family and friends.”

Residents and firefighters fight a bushfire that has threatened homes in Rainbow Flat on NSW Mid North Coast. Photo Jeremy Piper

Residents and firefighters fight a bushfire that has threatened homes in Rainbow Flat on NSW Mid North Coast. Photo Jeremy PiperSource:News Corp Australia

A burned out car near Taree. Picture Nathan Edwards.

A burned out car near Taree. Picture Nathan Edwards.Source:News Corp Australia

The RFS has said at least 150 homes have been destroyed in NSW. One of those is likely to be of Rainbow Flat resident Kim.

Speaking to news.com.au, she said some residents in her community had “no hope” of saving their property from the blaze that ripped through Hillville and surrounding suburbs.

“The whole sky was red. It was pretty horrible,” she told news.com.au from a road block near Hallidays Point.

“As soon as it got in to this side of the highway at Possum Brush there was no way they [fire crews] were going to stop it. They could’ve put down as many planes or choppers as they could and they wouldn’t have stopped it. I’ve never seen anything like this. Nothing.

Kim, who has lived in the area for eight years, was sanguine about the prospect of losing her home.

“Look, it’s a house,” she said.

“We have our five dogs and our four humans out. Everyone was happy that they had whatever they loved. And I’ve got the picture of my mum.”

Zoe’s home which she now fear has been destroyed. Picture: Facebook.

Zoe’s home which she now fear has been destroyed. Picture: Facebook.Source:Supplied

The flames on encroaching on Zoe’s home. Picture: Facebook

The flames on encroaching on Zoe’s home. Picture: FacebookSource:Supplied

Julie, who also lives close to Rainbow Flat, spoke about the moment she saw her landlord’s farm, caught up the horror blaze.

“There were some out-buildings on fire, the front yard was on fire, the bush paddock where the horses are was fully on fire,” she said.

“I don’t know whether the house went up. He came back to a property that I’m staying in and he was in tears. He just didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Julie doesn’t know whether she will have a home to go back to.

“We’ve got 10,000 litres but there was no water coming through the hoses and the power’s out. So it is a pretty scary.”



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