Blakeney Lodge Tumut evacuates residents to Wagga

Former Tumut Mayor Trina Thomson with her mother Edna Cruise, preparing to leave Blakeney Lodge yesterday.

RESIDENTS of Tumut’s Blakeney Lodge Residential Aged Care facility are being transported to The Haven facility in Wagga due to the smoke and threat posed by the bushfires.

Blakeney Lodge manager Kerry Kelly said that management and staff waited for the outcome of the Adelong community meeting about the bushfire crisis yesterday before making a decision.

“We did not get a lot of assurance out of that, so we decided to go,” she said.

“Also, our residents are being impacted by the smoke and we have the opportunity to accommodate our residents in a high-standard facility.

“This is one less concern the community will now have.”

Ms Kelly said the 30 residents would be moved out at a “nice pace” and is happy that there is such a nice place to go to. She sees it as more of a holiday than an evacuation.

“That’s the beauty of Catholic Health Care; you can make the best out of this,” she said.

She said the residents would have a good time, go to the movies and McDonald’s.

Former Tumut Mayor Trina Thomson, whose mother Edna Cruise is a resident at Blakeney, is very grateful to Catholic Health Care for being so proactive.

“They are not willing to wait until it becomes an emergency, because then it becomes difficult,” she said.

“People in aged care facilities don’t have the ability to just get up and walk out, so I am glad they have someone in charge here who thinks ahead.”

The main street of Tumut is a haze of smoke.

The move started today, and may carry over into the morning.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District, meantime, is reminding people to be vigilant about their health, with smoke from the Dunns Road fire currently blanketing the region.

Smoke causes mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat, however, people with conditions like asthma, emphysema and angina are at greater risk because the smoke can trigger their symptoms.

Director of Public Health, Tracey Oakman said the fire emergency engulfing many parts of the region means smoke is currently affecting many communities and may not lift for some time.

“If possible, stay in air-conditioned premises where filtration systems can help to reduce dust particles in the air, and avoid outdoor physical activity,” Mrs Oakman said.

“If you are on home oxygen treatment, continue as prescribed and if breathlessness worsens, contact your GP.”

“People with asthma or a lung condition who develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing, should follow their asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease action plan.”

Blakeney Lodge had already enacted measures to help mitigate the impact of air pollution on their residents, prior to the decision to leave for Wagga.

“We put into place a couple of steps and firstly addressed the threat of bushfire,” Ms Kelly said.

“Then the staff made sure windows are closed, we have wet towels at the bottom of all our doors, we have closed the blinds and are using heavier curtains.”

Ms Kelly admitted it was nearly impossible to keep the smoke completely outside, but is confident that reducing the impacts is the best-case scenario considering the region’s current predicament.

“We limit entries and exits and of course, none of our residents are outside but some smoke does get in,” Ms Kelly said.

“We have also turned off our evaporative coolers and only used our reverse cycle air conditioners and we also turn on the ceiling fans to limit smoke just sitting there.”

Blakeney Lodge has also been busy fielding inquiries and short-term stays from older residents in the region at risk of the bush fires.

“There is a lot of people out there who need help,” Mrs Kelly said.

“We have had a member from the Adelong community who stayed with us last night who was feeling vulnerable and we seem to have a lot more of visitors during the day, especially because of the cool rooms and the safety.

“We have a bit of a full house.”

With conditions forecast to get worse as the weekend approaches, the current smoke blanket looks set to stay. 

– Josh Gidney and Jeff Hanson