Woman’s Incredible Act Of Generosity To Help Fire-Ravaged Town
John Duncan escaped a fire that devastated his home with just the clothes on his back, but it could have been worse without his daughter's quick thinking and her mobile phone.
Now, his daughter Carol is praising a "remarkable" community effort which has raised nearly $15,000 in just 18 hours, after homes were destroyed in fires burning across the north of NSW.
The funds were raised after quick-thinking Carol started a GoFundMe on Tuesday night, asking Australians to help her father's fire-ravaged community.
"I wouldn't ask for help for myself, but I'd do anything for my dad. That's why I made the page, and people have been amazing," Carol told 10 daily.
"I just cannot imagine being in his situation."
Fires are still burning out of control in northern NSW and southern QLD. One of the worst is at Busby's Flat, near Casino, which has ripped through more than 13,000 hectares of land.
Dozens of properties are feared lost in the NSW fires, with the Rural Fire Service predicting a "significant number of homes and other buildings (have been) destroyed."
Sadly, one of those homes was the one owned by 83-year-old John and his partner Cass, at Busby's Flat, near Rappville.
"All I have is what I'm wearing. Even my walking stick was in the house," John said.
His daughter Carol, a Newcastle local councillor and a former ABC journalist, began sharing her concern online for his safety on Tuesday afternoon.
She shared a safety advisory from the RFS, saying her dad "didn't have time to evacuate" and saying he was "hopefully safe".
An hour later, she made a devastating update: "his home has been burnt to the ground. It has all gone."
"Oh my f**king god. What do we do now? He is in tears," she wrote.
She said her dad had initially planned to shelter inside his metal shed, and -- not knowing where else to turn -- she pulled out her phone and asked the RFS for advice.
John couldn't make it to a nearby school which had been set up as a safe shelter area, so Carol messaged the Rural Fire Service, who rushed firefighters to her father to rescue him.
Not long after, John's house and shed were burnt to the ground.
"I tried to call and message my dad, but nothing, no signal," Carol said.
"I couldn't call my father. I thought I knew where he was, so I said to the RFS that he was in the big shed. They messaged me privately and asked where it was."
She praised the RFS and their social media team as "remarkable".
"I can't even begin to think about it too much. They had somebody there who happened to see my tweet, and I can imagine he was dealing with other stuff, but they did help," Carol said.
Carol then set up the GoFundMe page to raise money to help her dad -- who she described as a "battler his entire life" -- and other residents who had lost their homes to the fires.
In just 18 hours, nearly 300 donors smashed the page's original goal of $10,000, racking up more than $14,500.
Carol said she would direct the money to help those in the area.
"I want your Dad to know there are people he doesn't even know who are thinking of him," one woman wrote after donating.
"Fellow Aussie battlers need our help. Also [thank you] to firefighters," wrote another.
"My 85-year-old father lost everything in the Christchurch earthquake 7 years ago. Stay strong," another wrote.
On Wednesday, the RFS advised separate fires burning near Busbys Flat had merged, creating a 64-kilometre wide fire front.
Authorities are investigating whether the fire had been deliberately lit, with the RFS reporting claims of "suspicious activity in that area".
"It really is a bastard act if you're going to put your own community at risk," said NSW emergency services minister David Elliott, adding he was "horrified" by the idea the blaze may have been deliberate.
Robert Mustow, the local mayor, said he had been left "broken" by the scenes of destruction.
"My heartfelt feelings go out to the whole community," he said, according to ABC News.
"Yesterday the winds were ferocious and people said it was like Armageddon."