STAY OR GO: Angourie, Wooloweyah residents make tough choice
WITH a large bushfire burning out of control and heading straight for them, residents in Wooloweyah and Angourie had a decision to make on Monday: stay and protect their property, or evacuate.
Wooloweyah resident Angus Suttor made the decision to remain and defend his property, and despite the strong gusty winds on Monday and today, he said the situation could have been much worse.
"The forecast was for a south-westerly wind which blew the fire closer to the coast which impacted Angourie more than Wooloweyah, so we were safe from anything dire until this morning when the wind turned around," he said.
"The fire at the top end of Wooloweyah burnt all the way through to the fire break put in place about a month ago.
"With the way the winds changed the situation could have been much worse if Mother Nature didn't play a good hand.
"I went to Angourie yesterday morning and because the Large Air Tanker had dropped fire retardant that was the real saving grace."
Fellow Wooloweyah resident and Clarence Valley Councillor Peter Ellem evacuated with his family on Monday.
"Once an emergency was declared yesterday, people made their decisions to evacuate," he said.
"There were three sets of evacuations out of Wooloweyah through Monday afternoon and night, one under police escort.
"Even yesterday with spot fires around the lake, some who stayed to defend their homes worked with RFS teams to secure their homes and put out spot fires burning around the lake."
Lakes Boulevard resident Lou Gumb was not evacuated. She and her neighbours on both sides chose to stay in Wooloweyah.
Ms Gumb said it was a nervous time in Wooloweyah last night, but was confident the worst had passed.
"Everyone was really apprehensive," she said.
"You could hear the fire trucks coming and going all night checking for spot fires. My husband and I did rotating shifts of being awake just to be sure.
"You could tell how close it was from the orange in the night sky.
"When the winds picked up about 10 o'clock this morning the smoke was just intense, it was incredible.
"There was a feeling of what's going to happen next. But talking to the RFS, they were so grateful there was next to no wind during the night and coming from the southwest it blew the fire towards the coast. So all the fuel had burnt out already in the safest possible way."