Kangaroo Island bushfire crisis continues - fire keeps burning, relief floods in, PM visits

The bushfire crises continues to unfold on Kangaroo Island with CFS on Wednesday afternoon, January 8 relocating south coast residents away from tomorrow's fire danger.

The area is not under threat currently and the concern is for tomorrow. The evacuation will last 36 hours and police will remain in the area as long as it is safe.

The CFS said the unusual step was being taken because of the concern of worsening weather tomorrow and the high fuel-load in the area.

The order could impact on about 140 people and the Bushfire Safer Places were Kingscote and Penneshaw.

Emergency services are also monitoring the status of the larger town Parndana and additional warnings could be issued if the weather and fire situation deteriorates. Full story here

The relief and recovery effort rolls on with money flooding in and the Army working to shore up water supplies and help clean up the devastation on the Island's farms.

Damage assessment has now been completed for the private properties. CFS has received advice from SA Police and other emergency services that a total of 233 properties have been assessed, with 56 homes and 257 vehicles destroyed, major damage to 10 buildings, minor damage to 18 buildings and 236 outbuildings damaged.

Two locals, a father and son, were killed on the afternoon of Friday, January 3 when the firestorm hit their vehicle on the Playford Highway.

It's with a heavy heart that we can bring confirmation that the Flinders Chase National Park visitor centre and also at Kelly Hill have been destroyed, while other heritage buildings are badly affected.

The Cape de Couedic and Cape Borda lighthouses as of Tuesday were still standing and being defended.

More than $2 million dollars has now flowed into the Island's official relief fund and also wildlife fund.

How to donate on GoFundMe:

Army cares for koalas

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and SA Premier Stephen Marshall visited the control base at the Kangaroo Island Airport near Kingscote on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister announced tax-free Category C funding of $10,000 for small business and $15,000 for farmers, part of an $11 million fund for SA split between State and Federal.

He also spoke about the general economic impact of the fire on the Island's agriculture and tourism economy.

He urged people to keep visiting Kangaroo Island in the weeks ahead, even suggesting visitors who cancelled should consider holding off on asking for their accommodation refunds.

Businesses on the two-thirds of the Island that remains unaffected are desperate visitors at this their normally busiest time of year.

Mayor Michael Pengilly joined Premier Steven Marshall in welcoming the PM to Kangaroo Island.

"This visit by the PM to see first hand and hear direct from those impacted by the bushfire devastation was an important part of the healing process," Mayor Pengilly said.

"The visit was also about planning to repair Island infrastructure and get people and businesses to bounce back to some semblance of normality. We welcome both the Prime Minister and Premier to our Island during our time of greatest need."

SA Water continues to work on restoring the Island's water system damaged in the fire and is still urging residents to conserve water.

SA Water General Manager Asset Operations and Delivery Mark Gobbie said while drinking water supply for the whole of Kangaroo Island has been maintained to date, to help preserve storage levels until the bushfire-damaged Middle River Water Treatment Plant can be brought back online, SA Water is asking everyone on the Island to continue limiting mains water use to essential needs only.

"At this stage, we expect repairs to the Middle River plant to take several weeks to complete," he said. "In the interim, we are transporting around 500,000 litres of water a day from the separate Penneshaw network and the mainland to the Kingscote storage tank.

"Alternative drinking water - bottled and a large bladder to fill water containers from - is available at the Western KI Lions Park at the corner of Jubilee Avenue and Wheaton Street in Parndana.

"We have also sourced two mobile filtration plants which will treat around 1.5 million litres of water a day from the Middle River Reservoir before being discharged into the mains network for all customers to access. At this stage, these plants are expected to be operating by the end of this week and will be supplemented by another mobile filtration plant provided by the Australian Defence Force, which will treat and move around 300,000 litres of water a day into the Kingscote storage tank."

The Army desalination plant in place at the Middle River plant on Kangaroo Island.

The Army desalination plant in place at the Middle River plant on Kangaroo Island.

The Army meanwhile has flown in large portable water treatment plants that have already produced about 250,000 litres of drinking water.

They are also assisting with the disposal of a staggering 100,000 stock killed in the fire and have also assisted building a wildlife hospital at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park at Parndana.

Telstra crews meanwhile have worked hard to restore mobile phone services on Kangaroo Island following the devastating bushfires.

Work is continuing to restore all landlines affected on the island. Remember, for police assistance ring 131 444, or Triple Zero in an emergency.

There are reports Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber has lost 90 per cent of its trees and is still in a share trading halt, before which after the KI's first fires in December it had lost a quarter of its value. There is no currently no way of getting the damaged timber off the Island and the trees deteriorate quickly after fire.

There is lots of heartbreak on the Island as farming families deal with the loss of property, sometimes their entire farm, and even the local Western District Football Club lost its community centre.

Remarkable tales of survival

There continue to be tales of remarkable survival and brave battle, particularly at Stokes Bay and Snug Cove where locals and farm fire units have spent weeks fighting the fire.

Hold up near Stokes Bay is RoAnna Horbelt and her partner, defending their property with an antique fire engine "Betty". They now have been joined by dozens of kangaroos and wallabies searching out any remaining pasture and safety from the fire.

She pasted on Facebook, "With fires on every side, I am now realising what it actually means to be an animal sanctuary. Have NEVER seen so many super stressed kangas desperate for water and food.

Simply nowhere to go but here. All the surrounding bush lands are on fire or toast. And when the sun sets the wallabies take over. So many wallies!! Just nuts!

And when the red smokey sun finally does set, all you see are the massive glows of flames surrounding you. And the winds howl.

But my joeys are snoring...and I too can no longer stay alert. But will have that alarm going every hour just to make sure we all remain safe. That said, I'm feeling very positive still!

Thanks for all your love. Days are just sooooooo busy with the here and now situations that I have little time to post."

The Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park near to Parndana is the main point for wildlife care but it too could come under renewed fire attack tomorrow. There have also been reports of a koala clinging to a firefighter in Kingscote.

There is some hope for the wildlife out west as local John Hodgson reported after visiting his block on Church Road at Karatta.

"Well, Lois and I went out to Church Rd for the second day. The fires are still burning on the west end, characterised by flareups from stumps to wind changes. We now know that nine or ten properties have been lost on Church Road, with only two remaining. What went through was a firestorm,nothing could stand in its way, the larger animals never stood a chance, there is hope that the smaller mammals and reptiles hid away. We went out today to take hay for the wildlife and were somewhat relieved to see a mature male eastern grey roo ,about ten Tamar wallabies as well as a few birds including Glossy Black Cockatoos a small family of Yellow tail Black Cockatoos and "bonk" frogs still in the creek."

SeaLink ferry service update

SeaLink is committed to supporting recovery efforts following the devastating Kangaroo Island bushfires.

Our hearts go out to all those who have been impacted by the bushfires, including our own employees who live and work on the Island. We want to acknowledge the dedication, efforts and bravery of firefighters and emergency services personnel. We also thank all SeaLink employees who are working hard to support our customers and the community during this difficult time.

Our priority has been, and continues to be, supporting emergency services with the transportation of essential support personnel, supplies and services. Additional ferry services have been operating throughout the night to ensure urgent delivery requirements can be met.

We have developed an initial support package worth half a million dollars for immediate support of the local community. This includes an initial $200,000 financial donation to the KI Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund.

SeaLink understands there are many people whose homes, properties and businesses have been destroyed. As part of this package we wish to support those directly impacted and by providing free ferry travel to the value of $2,000 per property to assist with their recovery. Community members can email KIsupport@sealink.com.au.

We also recognise that at times like this, family and friends can provide amazing help and support to those affected. SeaLink will also provide free ferry passenger fares to the family and friends of Kangaroo Island residents through to the end of January. More information can be obtained by calling SeaLink on 131 301.

Along with our initial $200,000 donation, we are also launching a national fundraising program with our island ferry services around Australia to raise additional funds to support those impacted by the recent bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

Our thanks and support also go to the many businesses providing services and equipment and goods for the clean-up and recovery process. Our freight services are provided free-of-charge for those donated services. We are working with key support organisations such as BlazeAid and Foodbank in the provision of ferry travel for essential support and provisions. For a list of locations to make food donations to Foodbank SA visit www.sealink.com.au/bushfire-update.

It has been heartening to receive so many offers from members of the public and businesses wanting to donate essential items to the Island community. We have partnered with the Lions Club of Yankalilla and St Vincent De Paul for the donation of essential items and we will transport these to the Island free-of-charge to Island Care. These items can be delivered to:

Lions Club of Yankalilla - Yankalilla Showground Hall, Jervois Road, Yankalilla. Entrance via side road, open 9am to 4pm.

St Vincent De Paul - three Vinnies bins are located next to the Cape Jervis ferry terminal until Wednesday 15th January.

We understand the vital importance of tourism to the Kangaroo Island community. As part of longer-term recovery efforts, we are working with the South Australia Tourism Commission and other partners on a campaign to encourage visitors to get behind the local community by continuing to visit Kangaroo Island.

These bushfires have been devastating for everyone on Kangaroo Island. All of us at SeaLink are committed to supporting the local community in its recovery, now and in the longer-term.

In the meantime, we continue to work with the CFS, SAPOL, emergency services and community groups. Anyone requiring assistance should go to the relief centre at Kingscote Football Club, Centenary Avenue, Kingscote.

Thank you once again to everyone assisting in this devastating event and I can assure you that SeaLink will not rest until all transport needs for the Kangaroo Island Community are met.

For up-to-date information on current CFS warnings visit https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/warnings_and_incidents/current_cfs_warnings.jsp

People can also visit www.sealink.com.au/bushfire-update for the latest bushfire updates from SeaLink.

Recent Sentinel-3 satellite imagery from Kangaroo Island processed by local Boone Law. Date Jan 7 2020. Show burned areas in red, unburned as green.

Recent Sentinel-3 satellite imagery from Kangaroo Island processed by local Boone Law. Date Jan 7 2020. Show burned areas in red, unburned as green.

Support for communities

The Federal and South Australian Government will provide more support to South Australian communities devastated by bushfires, as they look to rebuild and recover.

Primary producers and small businesses on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills can now access grants to help them get back on their feet.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said assistance is being provided under the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

"South Australia, particularly the Kangaroo Island and Adelaide Hills communities, have faced devastating losses. The bushfire threat is not over yet, but we will be there, backing the communities every step of the way as they rebuild and recover," said the Prime Minister.

"This funding will provide grants of up to $10,000 to impacted small businesses, and $15,000 to primary producers and farmers. This will give businesses and families the immediate assistance they need to begin rebuilding.

"We have also deployed a force of 121 ADF engineers, logistics specialists and personnel to Kangaroo Island to help with immediate relief and clean-up."

Premier Steven Marshall said the State Government is committed to rebuilding the communities affected by these devastating bushfires.

"We are acting swiftly, focusing initially on the engine room of these communities, primary production and small business, and this investment will help jump-start the recovery of both Kangaroo Island and Cudlee Creek," said Premier Steven Marshall.

"We want these communities back on their feet and flourishing as soon as possible."

"Despite the tragic circumstances, the people I meet on the ground are determined to recover and rebuild, and we are working with the federal and local governments to provide the support needed."

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said we are seeing the largest domestic mobilisation of the Defence Force in our nation's history, as our serving men and women respond to the devastating bushfires.

"A military water purification system has been flown to Kangaroo Island from RAAF Base Amberley in Brisbane. It can create 25,000 litres of potable water each day, enough for the island's population, and this water will be distributed by the ADF.

"Army veterinarians and personnel are also treating injured and orphaned animals including koalas at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park."

Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said supporting farmers and small businesses was a priority.

"This will help farmers and small business clean-up, repair damaged equipment and fencing, and replace stock," Minister Littleproud said.

"Getting back to business is one of the best ways to recover. This support will make sure businesses can open and people are back to work sooner.

"When money flows around a community it can help to speed up the whole recovery We will see this through together and further assistance will be made available if it is needed."

Keep or cancel holiday plans?

Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia's most iconic tourism destinations, but as fires continue to rage across the once pristine environment, many holidaymakers are questioning whether to keep or cancel their travel plans.

While tourism authorities are calling for people to continue to visit Kangaroo Island, sustainable tourism expert, UniSA's Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles says the situation is far more complex than boosting tourist numbers.

"The bushfire crisis on Kangaroo Island is heart-breaking," Professor Higgins-Desbiolles says, "and for a holiday destination that relies on tourism, the summer-holiday fires could not have come at a worse time.

"Kangaroo Island is a tourism dependent economy, and while tourism operators and authorities are calling for people to keep visiting Kangaroo Island, the fires are not yet out, CFS volunteers and defence personal are still being deployed, and infrastructure like the water treatment facilities are damaged.

"Additionally, critical services like the Kangaroo Island ferry are needed to transport emergency service personnel and equipment. I just think it's too soon at this moment."

Dr Higgins-Desbiolles says while it's strategically important to plan the recovery of Kangaroo Island's tourism businesses and primary producers, immediate tourist visits may not be the answer.

"While it is still be possible to visit Kangaroo Island at this time, it may not be the most viable or ethical decision under the current circumstances," Dr Higgins-Desbiolles says.

"For those of us who love Kangaroo Island and want to see its economy recover and thrive, the advice for the short term is provide donations if you can, buy Kangaroo Island produce and products, and when the time is right, book your holidays there and plan to consciously direct your spending to support the local economy.

"This is an incredibly emotional and confronting time for the 4500-plus residents of Kangaroo Island who are still reeling from the devastation and loss form the fires. They're only just beginning a long road to recovery.

"For those with later bookings on KI, please don't cancel those just yet. If the local authorities give the greenlight, your holiday bookings may be just what helps Islanders get back on their feet.

"The grassroots campaign - #gowithemptyeskies - perhaps says it best: 'When these fires have stopped, and the towns impacted are safe and trying to regain some sense of 'normal'....plan a road trip. Go with empty eskies, empty cars and low fuel...(and) buy from their shops...empty eskies make, more of a difference that you could ever imagine."

"It's a small step, but one to which we can all safely contribute beyond the devastation of the fires."

SA Government encourages donations

The State Government has expanded its SA Bushfire Appeal to raise much-needed funds for South Australians directly affected by recent devastating bushfires on Kangaroo Island - and everyone is encouraged to give generously.

An additional $1 million has been pledged by the Marshall Government to help the Kangaroo Island community rebuild, on top of the $1 million already committed for those affected by the Cudlee Creek bushfire.

The SA Bushfire Appeal will be the primary appeal for South Australia's emergency relief effort, raising money for the SA Emergency Relief Fund.

Premier Steven Marshall said the entire community stands shoulder to shoulder with the community affected by the state's devastating bushfires.

"The outpouring of support for South Australians in their hour of need has been an inspiration, with every dollar raised going directly to the families and communities who need it most," said Mr Marshall.

"We have all been shocked and saddened by the scale of destruction on Kangaroo Island, coming on top of the devastating losses in the Adelaide Hills.

"Not only has there been tragic loss of life, families have lost homes and properties, people have lost businesses, vineyards, livestock and - for some - their livelihoods.

"At this difficult time, we're encouraging South Australians to continue to dig deep and donate what they can to the SA Bushfire Appeal, to help their fellow South Australians rebuild in the weeks, months and years ahead.

"South Australians have already given very generously, with more than $1,041,881 raised so far from 3316 donors.

"Every dollar donated to the SA Bushfire Appeal will go to South Australians who are doing it tough and every dollar makes a difference."

After donating, people are being encouraged to 'like and share' the SA Bushfire Appeal Facebook page to help spread the word around the world.

All donations over $2 to the SA Bushfire Appeal are tax deductible. Donations can be made online, in person or by post:

. Electronic funds transfer to the SA Bushfire Appeal, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, BSB 065 266, Account 10020160, description should state 'SA donation'

. Credit card - visit the SA Bushfire Appeal BPoint payment website at www.bpoint.com.au/payments/serf or dial 1300 276 468 (1300 BPOINT) and enter biller code 1002359

. Cash - go into any branch of the Commonwealth Bank and donate over the counter giving the details: BSB 065 266, Account 10020160

. Cheque - mail to SA Bushfire Appeal, Donations, QA Finance, GPO Box 292, Adelaide SA 5001

For more information or to donate to the SA Bushfire Appeal go to sa.gov.au/bushfireappeal

To stay up to date on all the latest relief and recovery measures for the current SA bushfires, visit dhs.sa.gov.au/recovery. People directly affected by the fires can phone the Recovery Hotline on 1800 302 787.

BankSA makes funds available

BankSA will access a $1.5 million Bushfire Fund, announced by the Westpac Group, to provide immediate assistance to bushfire affected communities in South Australia.

This Fund will support the country fire services, our customers, and a number of local organisations assisting with the recovery process.

BankSA Chief Executive, Nick Reade, said the funding will provide immediate, practical help on the ground.

"We know that our customers and communities in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island are facing unprecedented challenges and need urgent assistance to get back on their feet.

"Our local teams are working tirelessly to support customers on the ground in these communities and identify how we can help with their immediate needs.

"We're also working on how we can best support in the weeks and months ahead to help these communities and economies to rebuild."

The Bushfire Fund includes:

$500,000 in grants to immediately support customers and employees whose properties have been destroyed or damaged. Grants of up $2,000 can be accessed to help cover temporary accommodation, food and clothing;

  • $300,000 to state-based volunteer fire services to continue to support the emergency workers on the front line;
  • $250,000 to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) to provide grants to impacted communities to support recovery and rebuild efforts; and
  • The remaining $450,000 funds will be allocated for the rebuilding and recovery support that will be essential in the months ahead as communities rebuild homes and businesses, as well as for the rescue and rehabilitation of local wildlife.

This Fund is in addition to a number of initiatives already announced including:

Customers: A Disaster Relief Package for customers to provide immediate financial relief;

Community donations: Donations to the Vinnies SA Bushfire Appeal are being taken at any BankSA branch or through the BankSA Mobile Banking App;

Matching staff donations: Any employee who donates to a charity providing disaster relief will have their donation matched by BankSA; and

Supporting our staff on the ground: As a significant South Australian employer, BankSA has a number of initiatives to support our people who are helping the recovery process. This includes uncapped paid leave for employees who are emergency service volunteers, and counselling support.

BankSA customers who need assistance are encouraged to contact BankSA Assist on 1800 679 461 to discuss their personal or business circumstances, or visit a local branch.

Insurance customers should contact BankSA on 1300 656 345 so that we may assist. Claims can be lodged 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling this number.

This story Kangaroo Island bushfire crisis continues - fire keeps burning, relief floods in, PM visits first appeared on The Islander.

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