Clearing the rubble ahead of rebuild

Property owner Nina Adams in front of her Pioneer Street home burnt during the Dunns Road Fire. Clean-up by Laing O’Rourke began on Wednesday and was expected to be completed in two days.

Nina Adams, who lost her home in Batlow during the Dunns Road Fire in January, was finally able to see the clean-up process begin on Wednesday when contractors with Laing O’Rourke and Aboriginal Beata Terra began clearing the property. She said that this first step in the recovery and rebuilding process has provided her with a great deal of closure.

Mrs Adams’ home was first built in the 50s as a butchers, and the building has a rich history in Batlow and could be considered quite iconic. The January blaze burnt the home so badly that it unfortunately needed to be completely torn down, cleared and rebuilt.

When the Dunns Road Fire first hit and began developing, Mrs Adams said she and her family held off as long as they could, evacuating only after a town meeting in which they were told everyone needed to leave.

“We were seeing the glow in the sky and everything, so we knew that it was time to go,” she said.

“We packed up and we headed over to Wagga and sat there and listened to the scanner and let it all unfold and waited until we could come back.”

Mrs Adams said that upon returning to her home, she was “absolutely horrified.”

“I didn’t expect it to go,” she admitted. “I think a lot of people were like that, they just didn’t expect their houses to burn. It’s quite a shock.”

Mrs Adams’ husband was in the army and unfortunately lost all of his memorabilia in the fires.

Despite losing her home, Mrs Adams has nothing but the utmost of praise for the firefighters who battled the fires in Batlow tirelessly.

“The firies were amazing. Once my place was going up and they knew they couldn’t save it, they put the water on [my neighbours] house as well, so it was good that they saved her house ‘cause she has a lot of memories there.

“They’ve done an amazing job.”

After the fires, Mrs Adams and her family stayed with her mother-in-law, and then with another woman in Batlow for a few weeks. Eventually they wanted somewhere to call home again, and moved into their own place in Adelong.

When the clearing has been completed, Mrs Adams plans to have a new house built on the land. She and her husband will remain in Adelong, most likely moving their mother-in-law into the new home.

“We’ll keep the link here. We’re still part of the community,” she said.

Because of the fires, Mrs Adams lost her job at the Batlow Hotel. However, she was extremely pleased to be offered a job with Laing O’Rourke in their office.

“I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to do it,” she said.

“When I’m working in the office and I see all the properties that we’re cleaning up and everything … you just put it into place, you know, okay we’re going to get this done and we’re going to clean up and rebuild and be our little town again.”

James Stephens, a contractor with Aboriginal Beata Terra involved with the clean up in Batlow, expressed how eye-opening yet rewarding the process has been, full of mixed emotions.

“We were here approximately three weeks ago looking at the various properties, and looking at the damage that was done was a real eye-opener for us, and we’re really trying to treat this with the utmost respect especially for the people that have lost their houses,” Mr Stephens said.

He said the project has been unlike any other construction project he has been involved with in the past. Overall, it has been far more rewarding.

“It’s rewarding in the fact that we are here and helping people get on with their lives,” he said.

“Once their properties [are] cleared, at least they’ve got something to start from again.”

With around 25 properties signed up so far, Mr Stephens said they hope to have completed the clean-up by June. There are still a lot of variables that could affect this, particularly the rain we’ve experienced recently, which can slow the process down.