• Tony Bosworth

“You’re not alone” Bilpin & Kurrajong Heights to mark Black Summer Bushfire anniversary


On Monday, exactly a year ago, Lichell Maris was in North Richmond when fire hit her Bilpin property. “My neighbours in Johnson Road were stuck there. I was ringing triple zero for them as they had no phone reception and the landlines were down. Triple zero were telling me there was nothing they could - emergency services were overwhelmed. I was crying. I just felt so helpless.”


Locals at the Mt Tomah Berambing dance event last week


Many in the Bilpin and Heights area felt just as powerless as the fire swept down on them, and one year on the wounds are only just beginning to heal. Ms Maris was lucky – her property was saved by neighbour and Hillbilly Cider owner, Shane McLaughlan.


This last week, residents got together for an afternoon tea and to sing and dance at the Mt Tomah Berambing event as part of the healing process, and on Monday from 4pm they want locals to gather at Kurrajong Heights Bowling Club – the de facto meeting place in the hills - to let them know something important - you are not alone.


On this day a year ago, East Bilpin and Kurrajong Heights were overrun by the RFS backburn that had been menacing Bilpin district for the previous week. The fire hit suddenly, burning down Tutti Fruitti cafe and the iconic Fruit Bowl orchard and causing major property damage across the area.


An emergency evacuation of residents began as fire raged along both sides of Bells Line of Road.


Helen Foulis and her family, who had been hosing down the home they were renting from Tutti Fruitti, were bundled into their car by NSW Fire and Rescue and sent down the mountain as fire licked the building.


Helen, who took part in last week’s Mt Tomah Berambing Black Summer commemoration afternoon tea, said of the dance event, “It was the best thing I’ve done. I felt like I have exorcised a demon. I felt so much better afterwards and now I have the fire survival dance and photos as great memories for next year. – I have my family, my neighbours, and my community I can call on any time I’m in need. I know I am not alone.”


The survival commemoration will kick off at 4pm to 7pm on Monday at the Bowlo, with drinks, snacks and a chat, followed by commemorative photos.