Historic homestead lost as fire rages on

Source: Donnybrook Mail

The owners of the historic Southampton Homestead, near Balingup, said they were devastated by the news that their home had been destroyed by fire.

''My family and friends are devastated at the loss of our beautiful home, Southampton Homestead. The fire started from lightning on the hills above us and quickly progressed down through the valley when the winds picked up early Wednesday morning,'' owner Jeff Pow said.

''We were on business in London and so unable to defend or assist the gallant firefighting efforts of friends and neighbours, who have put their lives on the line fighting to save our home. We wish to thank them.''

''As new farmers, we are also deeply distressed by the injuries sustained by the many varieties of animals on the farm and at a dream literally gone up in flames.''

''We are trying to get a vet in now to assess the condition of the animals while we make our way back to Perth.''

''Our loss is compounded by the loss to the West Australian public of a irreplaceable historical treasure, the Southampton Homestead, having been founded and constructed in 1859 by settlers who arrived on the first ships to WA.''

''With the loss of Wallcliffe house to the recent Margaret River fires, we hope this sends a clear message to the state and federal government heritage agencies to act with haste and to provide deluge fire defense systems for the remaining colonial properties before they share out fate.'' 

The bushfire which destroyed the homestead, along with one other home, was downgraded to a watch and act alert on Thursday afternoon.

The warning is for the Greenbushes townsite and areas south to Dalgarup plantation in the Shires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.

The watch and act has been issued for people south of Hay Road, west of South Western Highway, north of Forrest Park Avenue, west of Maranup Ford Road, north of the Dalgarup plantation and east of Wetherley Road and south of the Nannup-Balingup Road in the Shires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.

But residents of nearby Balingup were bracing themselves for an expected wind change that may determine the course of a bushfire burning to the south east of the town.

The Balingup Nannup Road has been closed to all traffic except residents choosing to leave.

Spring Gully Road resident Betty Guest said she and husband John Guest had been fighting the fires around their property last night. They lost some fencing and half a paddock before a firebreak was put through the centre of the property, containing the fire at that end.

Neighbour’s paddocks and a hill on the south side of Spring Gully were lost.

Mrs Guest, who evacuated at 8.30pm Wednesday with another woman, said fires were burning throughout the plantations and bush in the area.

She said last night the flames were crowning, meaning they were burning 100m above the treetops.

“They roared so loudly,” she said.

“Now we’re just waiting to see what the winds are going to do.”

Balingup resident Margie Miskimmin said south east Balingup was possibly in danger from the fire this afternoon, depending on the wind. Residents in her neighbourhood, located off the Balingup-Nannup road, were fireproofing their houses.

Balingup resident Sana Turnock said the sky in Balingup was white yesterday, and today there was ash landing on her balcony and coming into the house. She said she had packed her bags yesterday and was ready to go should it be necessary.     

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