Kangaroo Island woodturner Jonny Gloyne always knew someone special would walk through his gallery door and change his life forever.
- CFS crews are still working to protect unburnt pockets on the island’s west
- The blaze is still burning under a watch and act message
- Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly said at least 50 homes had been lost
It was Simone Krohn who stepped into the Australian Redgum Gallery at Newland, in the centre of the island, sparking a new romance.
Almost three years to that day, the couple have been left devastated after losing the gallery and Roo Lagoon Homestead to the bushfire that has ravaged Kangaroo Island.
The Country Fire Service (CFS) is still battling to contain the Ravine blaze, which is burning under a watch and act message.
About 170,000 hectares — or a third of the 4,400-square-kilometre island — has burnt so far. Authorities are yet to fully assess how many homes, livestock and wildlife have been lost in the blaze.
The CFS is still working to protect a few unburnt pockets within the fire zone, and crews were working on securing those lines ahead of warmer weather later in the week.
SA Premier Steven Marshall has announced the appointment of a recovery coordinator for Kangaroo Island and the opening of a bushfire recovery centre at Lobethal, in the Adelaide Hills.
Mr Marshall said the bushfire in the Adelaide Hills killed one person, destroyed 85 houses and more than 400 outbuildings, more than 200 vehicles and more than 5,000 head of livestock.
“Our focus now is on the recovery … this is a one-stop-shop for those people who need to come in, get information, get counselling, get comfort and support to rebuild their lives,” Mr Marshall said.
“So two areas, two iconic areas for us like the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island, have been hit. We are standing side by side … with these two communities.
“We’re working with the Federal Government. We’ll be announcing plans in the coming weeks … precisely what we’re going to do to rebuild those communities.
“[On Kangaroo Island], they’re very dependent on the two critical sectors, agriculture and tourism, [and] if they’ve lost their job because the business that they working for goes out of business, they can’t go down the road and get another job like you can on the mainland.”
Unconfirmed reports at least 50 homes were lost to the fire
Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly said at least 50 homes had been lost.
“People are traumatised — wives, husbands and kids walked out of their houses on Friday, and came back to nothing,” he said.
“They’ve just got nothing, it’s all gone.”
He has called for a cash injection from the state or federal government to help the island get back on its feet.
Mr Gloyne was lucky to escape with his life.
“I just heard these rumblings of a freight train, which was that super cell coming through, and I probably didn’t understand how severe it was until the embers were coming and the fire was almost on top of me,” he said.
“I simply just jumped in my car and took off and drove up to Western Districts footy club through a wall of flame, only just seeing the road — sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.
“I managed to get up there safely after cleaning up a cow with my car and driving over it.
“If I stopped, I wouldn’t have made it — it was that simple.
“But even when I got [to the oval], it was in full swing, I couldn’t open the door of my car because the wind was that strong, the heat outside was too intense to deal with.
“I had to stay inside the car and wait for it to go, which was almost an hour.”
‘We will come through this’
Fighting back tears, Mr Gloyne said he lost his gallery five years ago, he rebuilt and it held a special place in his heart.
“I always believed someone would walk through the doors of my gallery and one day Simone did — that was three years ago almost to the day that she did that,” he said.
He said the two things that made Kangaroo Island “special” was its farming and tourism and both industries would bounce back.
“The country folk, we’re a different bunch of crew,” he said.
“We accept things on the chin a lot more than most I think. I think we’re a lot more resilient — we will come through this, it’s just a matter of time.”
Ms Krohn said she didn’t hear from Mr Gloyne at all on Friday night and his last message stated he was “within the fire”.
“There were rumours going around that people had passed away out west,” she said.
“You’re just hoping and thinking positive and thinking he’s one to survive so when he texted me on Saturday morning, ‘come and get me in Parndana’, it was the best text I’ve ever had.”
Kangaroo Island locals John and Carol Stanton lost their native plant and flower business to the fires.
There were more than 1,200 varieties, which had grown over the past 35 years.
“It’ll come back, but it’s just completely gone now,” Mr Stanton said.
“It’ll be a new lease on life for us — we’ll be able to travel and visit grandkids more. You’ve got to look on the bright side.
“My brother Dave lost over 3,000 sheep. It’s terrible.”