Tasmania fire survivors ready to rebuild

Source: The Age

Just a fortnight after wading into the sea to hide beneath a jetty, a Tasmanian family whose bushfire survival story resonated globally are keen to rebuild.

On January 4 at Dunalley, Tim and Tammy Holmes clung to their five grandchildren in the sea after "gas bombs" of bushfire flame poured down a forested hill onto their property.

The children's parents were away: mother Bonnie Walker in Hobart at a funeral, and father David Walker hiking in the Tasmanian wilderness.

Images of the grim fight to survive were taken by Tim, and carried around the world.

"Some say it looked like there was terror, but what it actually was, was cold and smoky," Tim Holmes said on Friday among the ruins of their property, where three houses and a shed burned, and one survived.

"The children were at no stage panicked," Mr Holmes said. "Tammy kept them calm all along."

Aged between two and 11, the children appear to have emerged from the experience well.

"The children have been amazing," said Bonnie Walker. "We haven't noticed in them any stress or signs of trauma."

Nine-year-old Liam lost a drum kit in the fire. After a year of saving, he had had his drums for only two days. Shortly after the news of his loss travelled, he was called by a Hobart instrument store and told to pick up a new kit.

"You know, it's exciting in some respects for them," said Tim Holmes.

As friends cleaned off convict era bricks for the rebuild and the power was reconnected in a milestone for community recovery, Mr Holmes said the family had come to terms with the change.

"We're ready for the next stage," he said. "There's no reversing what's happened so we're ready to move forward. We're all committed to carrying on and rebuilding and re-establishing ourselves.

"It's a clean slate, almost. We've got one building left out of five, so it's a good opportunity to redesign and rebuild."

David Walker was still coming to terms with being plucked off a wilderness coast track by an ABC helicopter that flew in to reunite him with his family.

But he said his future, and that of his children, lay in Dunalley.

"We're feeling really good about the community and love being part of it," he said.

Tammy and Tim Holmes and family at their property near Dunalley. Photo: PETER MATHEW

Tammy and Tim Holmes and family at their property near Dunalley. Photo: PETER MATHEW


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