Cooma resident, photographer and administrator to The Snowy Brumby Heritage Group, Michelle Brown, this week ventured on foot into Kosciuszko National Park, which burnt on New Year’s Eve.
“It was a massive shock, just driving along the park boundary. My heart dropped to my feet when I saw the devastation to our beloved park,” she shares.
Many are wondering how the park fared in the fire. Michelle’s photos tell the story.
“We confirmed that at least five of our precious Kosciuszko Huts are burnt. The landscape was charred, the scale was so enormous to comprehend,” she says. “Our first stop was Delanys Hut, which is my all-time favourite. I was gutted when I saw it was reduced to rubble.”
There are a total of 70 huts in Kosciuszko National Park, some historical and others built more recently to provide accommodation and shelter for visitors.
“Although many people don’t even realise the huts are there, they are special to so many people who have sheltered there in winter storms.”
Sawyers Rest House was a favourite of many tourists, Michelle says, but it too was so burnt as to be unrecognisable.
“Some of these huts have burnt before and been rebuilt, but still, the lost history is so sad.”
As a testament to how hot the fire was, one of the gas bottles attached to Wolgal Hut “exploded into a million pieces”.
“The fire had obviously burnt very hot in some places; it must have been ferocious.”
Pattersons Hut, which is privately owned, was a “beautiful hut”, according to Michelle, but all that remains after the fire is the tall brick chimney.
Michelle hopes that National Parks staff were able to save the visitors books kept in all the huts before the fire hit as they’re an important part of the history of the huts and show how valuable the structures are to locals and visitors.
“We kept on going to Mathews Hut and the Kiandra Courthouse, which were both reduced to rubble.”
Michelle reports that the Long Plain Hut was saved.
“It was partially wrapped in protective foil and a containment line had been made around it,” she says.
Checking on her beloved brumby mobs as she moved through the park, Michelle was able to see through her powerful lens that some of the horses had “burnt noses, presumably from attempting to graze on hot ground”.
She has heard that National Parks officials are moving through the parks, euthanising animals who were badly injured in the fire.
“I don’t care what kind of animal it is, no animal deserves to be in the line of fire or to suffer from painful burns afterwards,” Michelle says.
But there are large areas of the park which have not been burnt at all and Michelle says she remains positive for the future of the brumby mobs and for other animals.
“I know how horses react to fire. They are usually pretty smart and get out of the way, and it’s encouraging to see green pick already growing through the black after only a week.”
The animals all have access to plenty of water, Michelle reports.
At her Cooma property, Michelle’s own horses are “on bare dirt”. She says that if the region gets the rain predicted this week, it will be like “all my birthdays and anniversaries have come at once!”
There’s no undoing the damage done by fire but at least, Michelle says, we can watch nature repair herself in amazement.
For more of Michelle’s photos, follow her on Facebook.