Wairewa residents, Karren Scott and Vaughan Hibbs, celebrated Christmas and the New Year in their new home.
The couple was burnt out in the Black Summer Bushfires after the blaze, which had been burning for weeks, finally arrived in the Wairewa Valley on the night of December 30.
Eleven homes were destroyed in Wairewa after the fire skipped across the valley, randomly selecting its targets.
Ms Scott and Mr Hibbs are the first Wairewa residents to have a new house following the fires and the home’s arrival, in three parts, on the back of a couple of semi-trailers last year, brought the local community out for a sticky beak.
“It was an emotional day,” Ms Scott said.
“We put a barbecue on and everyone came to have a look.
“I think it was uplifting for the community, it raised everyone’s spirits.”
The Anchor Home was forced to enter the valley via a back road as the house wouldn’t have fitted through the narrow opening under the historic bridge on the Wairewa Road.
Mr Hibbs said a remote control device was used to lift the house, in two parts, off the back of the trucks, before the verandah was also gently manoeuvred off.
“I was thinking I hope they don’t drop it,” Mr Hibbs said.
“It was quite nerve wracking to see your house dangling in the air.”
After the house was put together, the couple turned their attention to furnishing it. They lost all their furniture in the fires.
“A lot of the furniture was antique,” Ms Scott said.
“People say you must be excited about replacing the furniture and getting a new home, but I say to people it’s just a house at the moment.”
It’s evident memories created of the joyful times in the couple’s former home still linger.
The couple resituated their new home several metres away from their former house site.
“We were advised that it wasn’t ideal to build on a compromised site,” Ms Scott said.
A school teacher in Lakes Entrance, Ms Scott endured a difficult year with COVID-19 and adapting to teaching her students online.
Her son, Josh, and his partner joined the couple to welcome in the New Year on the Wairewa property, but Ms Scott indicated it will take time to process the fallout from the bushfires. “I think it’s a lot like delayed concussion,” she said. She concedes many people will likely suffer some form of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
“There’s a lot of people out there that are still a mess and people think because 12 months have passed they will have moved on,” Ms Scott said. “I think people just need to be kind and be patient.” Ms Scott said the garden had been her savior during difficult times. She has also found solace in a horse given to her by her neighbor, who elected not to rebuild following the bushfires and has left Wairewa.
“It’s an ex-racehorse and I’m trying to learn how to ride it,” she laughed. Ms Scott has now bought it a companion and she loves watching the two horses running happily through the paddocks together.
Mr Hibbs said he will often go to get something, not be able to find it, and wonder whether he lost it or if it was in the house when it was engulfed in flames.
The couple concur it will “take time to adjust”
Karren Scott and Vaughan Hibbs on the balcony of their new home in Wairewa. K1- 8660