OUT of fear came a new friendship.
Forced to evacuate their campsites at Bendalong to avoid the fire that started at Dean’s Gap, the Karp and Van Haren families forged new friendships in the wake of adversity.
“It was scary,” Rhys Van Haren said.
“As we were leaving were we camped, we could see the fire approaching really quickly.
“We were told that if we stayed, we should head to the beach to be safe.”
The Karp family from the Blue Mountains, and the Van Harens from Canberra, were camped at Bendalong and were left in the same boat after they were asked to evacuate, but they said the Ulladulla ExServos Club was a wonderful refuge.
They had the chance to get to know each other during the night spent at the ExServos and both families hoped to return to their camp site once roads reopened so they could enjoy the rest of their holidays and their new friendship.
“We hope the forecast rain dampens things and makes it safe for us to stay on,” Mrs Karp said.
The Van Harens were scheduled to stay in the area for another week while the Karps were holidaying until January 20.
Members of the two families were among about 220 people who took refuge in the club last night after the Princes Highway was closed and people chose to evacuate due to the fire at Wandandian.
The Department of Community Services, along with volunteers from the Salvation Army, Red Cross and Anglicare all worked with staff from the ExServos to keep people comfortable.
DoCS employee Jess Norris said people who sought refuge at the ExServos were positive and appreciative.
“We had only about 20 minutes to organise the evacuation centre, but everyone was wonderful and very grateful.”
After working around the clock, Ms Norris and the team from DoCS remained upbeat, and she said that attitude was reflected in the community.
“People have been great – we even had some local families offer to billet out evacuees in their own homes,” she said.
Along with the team of volunteers from local service organisations, the Ulladulla ExServos called in additional staff to help out.
The Salvation Army and ExServos worked together to put on a big cooked breakfast for all the families this morning.
Ms Norris said local police had also done a great job of keeping all the people at the ExServos informed, posting signs on the wall and talking to families.