‘You’re not prepared to lose everything’

For Susan and Nic Alexander, there was “lots of crying and lots of tears” when devastating fires tore through the Blue Mountains last summer, surrounding their town of Lithgow in a “wall of flames”.

The couple’s five-bedroom home was one of about 22 lost in the inferno, which burned more than 70 per cent of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, damaged infrastructure and left a shocked community to pick up the pieces.

In an interview for a new video series supporting bushfire affected communities, Open for Business, Susan said there was little that could prepare you for the moment you lose it all.

“You’re not prepared for what happens when you lose everything you’ve ever had,” she said.

“You know, you’re homeless. Other than the bag you packed, you’ve got nothing.”

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Susan and Nic Alexander lost their five-bedroom home when a devastating bushfire tore through the town of Lithgow in December 2019. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Nothing could’ve prepared the couple to lose everything. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

But like so many resilient Australians last year, in the aftermath of the blaze, the couple chose to dust themselves off and rebuild.

“We loved living where we lived, and we’ve decided to rebuild,” Susan said.

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‘You know, you’re homeless,’ Susan said. ‘Other than the bag you’ve packed, you’ve got nothing.’ Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

The couple have chosen to rebuild in the area. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

As for the town of Lithgow, it’s “recovering slowly, but the people are closer”, she continued.

“There’s a lot of people talking together about how they feel and what they’re going through and their rebuild is happening. We’re closer as a community that way.”

Blue Mountains Mayor, Mark Greenhill, said that in the case of the bushfires, “I think you see the best of Australians.

The town of Lithgow is ‘recovering slowly, but the people are closer’. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said the fires had brought out ‘the best of Australians’. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

“And with these fires, it was really the ordinary Aussies who stepped up. And while the devastation to the animal life can’t be measured, we’re not talking about lost human life in the Blue Mountains today, and I put that down to those people who frankly … are heroes, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

“And now we’re on a journey back.”

Mr Greenhill said most of the areas people associate with the Blue Mountains were unaffected. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

As one of only two places in the world enclosed by a World Heritage Area, Mr Greenhill said that “most of the areas that people associate with visiting the Blue Mountains are unaffected” and ready to welcome visitors back.

“There’s our beautiful Blue Mountains National Park, from Glenbrook right to the top of the Mountains, you can come and see it,” he said.

“There’re our lookouts on the edge of the Mountains, still open, those lookouts remain stunning.”

Emirates One&Only Resort Wolgan Valley.Source:Supplied

At Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, large areas of the bushland surrounding the resort remained untouched – and the landscape that was affected by the bushfires has started to regenerate.

“In terms of the post-fire recovery, it’s incredibly inspiring to see the regeneration that’s occurring naturally within the landscape,” Activities & Conservation Manager at the resort, Simone Brooks, said.

Activities and Conservation Manager, Simone Brooks, said the regeneration of the landscape has been ‘incredibly inspiring’. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

“We have a really significant ecosystem that we’re regenerating, and our little patch has been able to provide vital refuge for animals that were displaced.

“It’s a marvel, actually, to be able to walk along the river and see these shoots that are just coming out of trees that you thought were dead, the wildflowers in some areas. It’s just an explosion of life.”

Minister for Tourism, Trade and Investment Dan Tehan said now more than ever, bushfire-impacted communities need our support.

“A year on from the black summer fires, the best way we can help these communities is by visiting them,” he told news.com.au.

“Stay a few nights … visit the destinations that surround these communities and support the ones that have been so heavily impacted.”

The Blue Mountains community is rebuilding following the devastating bushfire season. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

The 27 towns and villages offer something for everyone. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

“We have an enormous amount to offer here,” Mr Greenhill said, listing everything from the National Park to “the best cup of coffee you’ll get in NSW”.

“There’s 27 distinct towns and villages all worth visiting, and each has got something special to offer. And there’s our people. I mean it’s the most welcoming place I think you’ll ever find.

“There’s a lot to see. It’s the best sort of first aid you can give us. Come enjoy us. You’ll have a great time – but gee, it’ll help us.”

For the next 14 weeks, news.com.au in partnership with Tourism Australia and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency will showcase bushfire impacted regions that need our support.

For the full video series, check out Open for Business

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