Scenes of Desolation from Fire
6 January 1905 The Sydney Morning Herald
A visit round the Gundagai, Adelong, and Tumut district reveals a scene of desolation, and shows how the fire raged.
In some places fires from opposite directions met, and the sight was a magnificent one, the rushing flames vying with each other for supremacy.
In the Big Ben valley there were two fires, and as if there was a test of speed between the two raced with fury till they met along the road.
There is nothing but desolation and burnt- out homes, traces of fences, wandering stock, the putrid smell arising from decaying bodies of stock, rabbits, and marsupials.
Here a horse with its tail burnt, there a bullock quite blind.
Again sheep with their wool burnt clean off.
For miles upon miles there is nothing but the black ground, relieved by occasional green patches which the fire jumped.
Dead magpies, parrots, cockatoos, crows, and other birds are to be seen round the consumed homes. All these birds made for the homes when the flames chased them from the bush, only to fall victims of the tearing fire.
At various places you find men on the lookout for stock. They are gathering together the scattered herds, counting the numbers perished and missing, and reckoning the cost to them.
Here you are a stalwart settler, his home gone, all his stock missing, nothing to tell where his holding begins and ends. He sobs as he tells of the ruin that stares him in the face.
It will take years for him to recover. Perhaps he will never do so in his time, as his land has not yet been paid for. He has no security to offer for loans.
He has plenty of sympathy, but sympathy alone does not erect fences and stock holdings. What are we to do, he asks.
Our holdings must go unless we have help, and some financial institutions won't give us another shilling. He says: "I intend giving up my holding to the station owner, and getting a big area from him on a halves farm next season. I canít do anything else, as I have not got the money to fence, even were we to get grass food for the stock."
The latest details in regard to losses are as follow:-
Messrs. Trudgen and Roche, Condonblonga station, lost everything but the homestead.
Mr. Sharpe's Green Hills station was clean burnt out, homestead and all. Only two saddles were saved. The women of the station had to run and throw themselves into a creek for safety.
Ellerslie station has all gone except the homestead.
Mr. J. Grady lost everything including his home.
Mr. W. Hayes lost everything but his home.
Mount Horeb station lost everything but the home. It is not yet known what the loss of sheep amounted to, but it is thought that thousands perished and also hundreds of cattle.
Mrs. Downing, Gadara, lost everything but he's home.
All telegraphic communication between Gundagai, Adelong, and Tumut is still interrupted. All telegrams are posted to Gundagai and wired on. Communication north of Wagga, Tarcutta, and other places is blocked. Only the main line of wires is working. Hundreds of poles have been burnt out Brungle way.
The fire burnt all the fencing and grass of Messrs. F. A. W. Lynch, G. Guy, French Brothers, G. Clout, and others, but never reached Wagra, Gobarlong, or Coolac, where the grass is high.
Out Gadara way a rabbiter, his wife, and three children had a marvellous escape. They were fighting the fire when it attacked the house and burnt it, and also a waggonette. The man, his wife, and children got a blanket and huddled them- selves together in a spring of water. A dog joined them, and also a rabbit. The fire burned over them, and they lost everything, including £40 in cash - years' savings.
Mr. H. Hogan, a well-known show exhibitor, lost his home, all his grass, and a number of prize sheep. Mr. Hogan and his son were away, helping their neighbours when the fire attacked his, home. Mrs. Hogan harnessed up and drove the children to town. Mr. Hogan came back, endeavoured to save his furniture, but fell in the flames, and was rescued with difficulty by his son.
Mr. J.Tonkin lost 200 tons of hay, a wheat tester, stripper, drays, and other machinery, and large sheds. It is estimated that they cost £800.
Messrs. Barrett Brothers lost everything, including their dwelling, stock, hayshed, standing crops, and sheds. Mr. Simmers lost a standing crop of wheat.
Mr. J. Arantz 2000 bushels of corn and a shed.
Mr. G. Piper, Jun., lost his house;
Mr. T. Keefe his house, grass, fencing, and sheep.
The fire at Jones Creek destroyed thousands of acres of grass belonging to Mr. P. Reardon, also some sheep. All along the ranges great walls of flame 60 to 100 feet high were carried along.
Two brothers, Messrs. Bartholomew and Thomas Reardon, underwent a trying ordeal. They endeavoured to save a mob of 700 sheep, and were hemmed in all round. For seven hours they battled with the flames, beating them back with their coats on half an acre of ground. The whole time it was impossible for assistance to get to them. A 2ft pool of water was their only refreshment during the time. Both had their clothes and hair singed. Their escape was the most lucky one yet reported. Afterwards both had to walk through burning timber a distance of five miles to reach a place of safety.
A lad named Jas. Plowes was injured by, a tree falling on him.
Many cases of shock to the system are reported, old people especially suffering severely.
M'Inerney, a lad running the mail from Adelong Crossing to Tarcutta, had a sensational experience. A burning tree fell across the road as he was driving past, and caught his horse on the loins, killing it. M'Inerney escaped injury.
Mr. Geo. Boon, of Tarrabandra, was nearly hemmed in by; the flames when attempting to save his house. His losses comprised three miles of fencing and 300 acres of grass.
The Harlow family, on the Tumut River, lost 120 acres of standing crop. The wheat was estimated at 12 bushels to the acre. Last year they lost 150 acres of wheat by fire.
Messrs. Winchcombe, Carson, and Co., wired £50 to the Mayor to devote to relieving distress in the Gundagai district.
The Chief Secretary wired expressing the sympathy of Lady Rawson and of the Government with the sufferers.