RUSSELL ROUNDUP -September
WHAT A MONTH - THE AFTERMATH What a month it has been on Russell Island. The family fire and tragedy has impacted everyone. Many have found the extent and outcome of the blaze hard to comprehend. The questions that have been asked have been many. How? Why? So Big! So Powerful! Six lives lost and a family totally destroyed. Two houses gutted, and a third badly damaged. The burn was so extensive that there was hardly anything left with the exception of twisted metal and posts. A tragedy of monumental proportions. THE EXPOSURE Russell Island has a knack of attracting publicity in unusual circumstances. Do a ‘search’ today and you will see stories about our island that go back 40 years or more! Julia Roberts said it best in Notting Hill when told by love interest Hugh Grant that a headline about their ‘discovery’ would be ‘gone in a few days. She was right when she famously replied along the lines “it’s on the internet. It will be there forever’. And so it will be with the fire tragedy one of the worst in Queensland’s history. OUR VOLUNTEERS Our island volunteers and first responders literally rose to the occasion this past month. First it was per ‘fires’, all volunteers, who were first on the scene to erase the worst of the horrific blaze. Then it was the island paramedics who took up to nine people to hospital, and played a major role in getting people out of the neighbouring homes involved in the blaze. Island Police were first on the scene to secure the horrendous site. Community Champions and a host of others were soon on hand helping wherever and whenever they could. And hats off, too, to a particularly hard-working MP Kim Richards who stayed on the island for a week providing assistance and help in all manner of ways, particularly helping those who survived the blaze. All can be proud of the way our island pulled together at am extremely difficult time. HUGE CONTINGENTS Within hours of the news of the horrific and tragic blaze, our island was ‘invaded’. Huge numbers of police and fire fighters and investigators were brought to the island, followed by the ever-present media. There were vehicles of all shapes and sizes roaming our streets, with national media on nearly every corner thrusting a microphone in the face of some unlikely media performers, including us here at The Friendly Bay Islander. Huge numbers of family of the victims also arrived. The Maori presence on the island became extensive, with many accommodated at the island community centre in Jackson Road. It was frantic for nearly two weeks, until police had fully combed the site of the original blaze at 5 Todman Street and finally declared ‘no suspicious circumstances’. THE HUB The Hub established in the Russell Island Memorial Gardens was a huge hit. It was put in place on the initiative of Redland City Council Mayor Karen Williams.It became a stop-off for many islanders, many of whom were upset and traumatised by the island tragedy. It was here Community Champions and some volunteer religious ministers were important and helpful. The central memorial tree in this location played a vital part with many flowers and small gifts and messages left by islanders and visitors. Some noted that the tree, by chance had six significant branches; making it an almost perfect location! ADOPT A FIRE HYDRANT One of the main issues that confronted fire fighters when arriving at the fire scene at about 6.30am on Sunday, August 6, was locating a fire hydrant. Many islanders may not know this, but they are located about 50 metres apart in almost every street on our islands. Fortunately, a neighbour at the bottom end of Todman Street was aware there was a hydrant out the front of his house, which he directed the island firefighters to as soon as they arrived. What they didn’t know, there was a fire hydrant directly out the front of 5 Todman Street. However, its marker had been knocked over in long grass and the hydrant was covered by grass. It was found later for visiting crews to tap into for ‘mopping up’ operations. Had it been visible first up, it could have made setting up for the island fire crew a lot quicker. So, we are asking all island residents to go to the trouble find out where the fire hydrant is closest to your island home! Adopt a Fire Hydrant; make sure it is cleared and identified, and paint to metal top ‘bright red’. If you need help, contact Redland City Council or our local Rural Fire Brigade. WOODY PASSES Long-serving President of The Russell Island Sports Fishing Club, Graeme Leifels, has died. Affectionately known by all as ‘Woody’, he was an icon of Russell Island who was passionate about his fishing. During his long tenure with the club, it grew into an island powerhouse. It is one of he largest community groups on our islands. It was well known that Woody had not enjoyed the best of health in recent years. It would be fair to say Woody will be missed by many in the island community for his enthusiasm, dedication and long service as president of the Russell Island Sports Fishing Club.