Corryong Fires Picture: Forest Fire Management Victoria
Corryong Fires Picture: Forest Fire Management Victoria

‘The worst is yet to come’: Bully reporter at Vic bushfires

THOUSANDS of hippies, performances from a folk music band and endless supplies of pizza filled the school at Corryong on New Year’s Day – the town’s evacuation point from the devastating bush fires tearing through Victoria.

Christine McKee
Christine McKee

Former Morning Bulletin reporter Christine McKee and her family are safe after hundreds of locals were evacuated in a convoy to nearby town Wodonga on Wednesday night.

However, Christine said she is worried the worst is yet to come.

After two days of no communication or power and no option to evacuate, Christine said she is “starting to get the bigger picture” of the “surreal” nightmarish scenes that have engulfed the town.

“I had two scary moments during the night (on December 30), where all the roads were closed off and it was too late to leave,” she said.

“Anna (my daughter) called me at 4am saying the town was being evacuated and we had to get out.

“Everyone was evacuated to the school. There’s more than 1000 people in Corryong and there were no fans, airconditioning or power.”

At the time, thousands of “hippies” had converged at Nariel Valley for the country's oldest folk festival.

But after the cancellation on New Year’s Eve, the attendees poured into the evacuation point, waiting for further instruction.

The supermarkets opened for a couple of hours on New Year’s Eve, but were only accepting cash.

“I had no cash and there was a girl at the check-out who handed me $20,” Christine said.

“I wasn’t going to take it but she said ‘seriously, take it’. I gave her a big hug. It was very nice.”

A local pizza shop owner had also shown the community spirit after cooking pizzas around the clock for emergency services and delivering them to the evacuation point.

“It’s amazing what happens,” Christine said.

Christine and Anna had ran into a friend at the evacuation centre had come into Corryong to help restore the water supply.

She said she was in town for a few days and that her home at Wodonga was unlocked and empty.

She offered them the house as a place to stay.

Unfortunately, there has been devastating losses, with the town left blackened and burnt.

“It brought home that Rockhampton is so natural disaster resilient and after being through foods and fires, everyone knows the process,” she said.

“Everyone knows what happens next and the aftermath is where the reality sets in.

“They don’t know that down here. There are grown men crying in the streets.”

The biggest concern now is the climbing temperatures and two big fires near Wodonga and Khancoban.

“We’ve got 41 degrees on Friday and 43 on Saturday. Everything depends on the wind but if the fires converge it could be catastrophic,” Christine said.

There are still people in Corryong, keen to protect their property – one of which is Anna’s partner Jayden, who is continuing to help with fire relief.

“He’s got two black farms. He saved the house,” she said.

Jayden and his father purchased an 150-year-old pub in Corryong years ago and for the last three years had been restoring it as a labour of love.

That pub is now gone.
“We’re hoping to go back on Sunday. There is a cool change and a 50 per cent chance of 5ml of rain,” Christine said.

“They’re trying to take convoys now and are taking supplies up.”