HOPE: Leah Grice is ready to go home and begin the mighty clean-up awaiting her family
HOPE: Leah Grice is ready to go home and begin the mighty clean-up awaiting her family

Phoenix rises from the ashes

A LITTLE donkey named Phoenix has risen from the ashes of the Capricorn Coast fires and given one Coast family a reason to smile again.

Leah Grice and her family of six adults and two children, spread across three homes on her 189-acre Cobraball Road property, were evacuated last Saturday with just the clothes on their backs and a fear of the unknown as fires came roaring towards their home.

Leah said she had dropped into town to have a cup of tea with a friend and was left wearing the clothes she had on.

“My daughter Charlotte was at home when I got the call to leave the property. I rang her and she was sitting on the front balcony playing with her two children,” Leah said.

“At first Charlotte’s response was that she could not see any sign of fire until she walked to the rear of the house and saw flames raging close to the property boundary.

“She grabbed the children, our six dogs, our parrots and the three cats and drove into Yeppoon.”

Leah and her family were concerned about their menagerie of animals, so son-in-law Ben went out to the property and moved all the animals into the front paddock where they could access water and where, if the need arose, fire crews could easily break the fencing and allow them to get to safety.

With 30 goats, six pigs, poultry, three horses, two ponies, one cow, five donkeys, Harry the llama and eight alpacas, it was no easy task rounding them all up into the one paddock, but Ben made it happen.

“Mikki the donkey has been with us for eight years and she has always been fat, we had no idea she was in foal,” Leah said.

“Ben was going out to the property each day when he could gain access and feeding the animals and milking the cow. It was quite the surprise to find out that in the middle of raging bush fires and chaos she managed to have her foal safely.

“It was a ray of sunshine for our family to see new life begin at such a traumatic time in our lives.

“The fear for us was very real. In 2000 we lost everything in a home fire, and we knew the devastation of losing all the things that were special to us. It has been an emotional roller coaster for the whole family with intermittent tears and fear.

“We had to buy clothes and personal items to get us by but, throughout this entire ordeal, we have been absolutely gobsmacked by the kindness of so many people, some we know well but also from people we hardly know on the Coast and well beyond.

“We had so many kind messages from people both here on the Coast and from friends around the world who have seen the news and contacted us.

“Times like this remind us of how great this community is, everyone is so strong and getting out there to help.”

Leah said the next step would be a massive clean-up effort when it was safe for them to return to their home, when embers had stopped threatening to fire up again.

“Our home was saved by the hard work of local fire and emergency crews, so we are fortunate,” she said.

“Our electricity was cut so there will be fridges and freezers to be cleaned out along with ash and dust to remove from everywhere and of course we will have to clean out our water tanks but at least we have a home to return to and clean, unlike other people who will have to begin again.

“We are so thankful for all the support we have been given and appreciate everyone’s efforts and kindness.”

While it would have been easy for Leah to sit and worry throughout this ordeal, the avid Yeppoon Lioness and nurse picked herself up and went out to do rostered shifts at the Lions Food Van at the Emergency Services co-ordination centre at Barmaryee.