by Bill Hoffman
BILLIONAIRE Richard Branson has shown himself to be the best of neighbours opening up his Makepeace Island Resort for victims of the Noosa North Shore fires that claimed three houses on the weekend.
Makepeace Island, which sits across the Noosa River from the four worst affected homes, three of which were completely destroyed, is now a gratefully-accepted sanctuary for four families all who know their benefactor through his visits to the resort.
It wasn't the only offer of accommodation the affected families received but being just a short boat ride from the carnage it was most gratefully received.
As Mike and Lynne Hancock picked through the rubble of their home today seeking out any salvageable momento, their eyes were looking more to a future and rebuilding from the ashes.
Neighbour Dave Wright has some rebuilding to do himself, but had nothing but praise for urban firefighters and the local North Shore Rural Brigade of volunteers who have ensured it will be only one wall of the family house he wife Kim and son Brodie have called home since 2000.
Among those who responded immediately to the unfolding disaster were 90-year-old Ken Bridges who remains an active member of the North Shore Rural Brigade and ferry driver Billy Broadhurst who was dressed in his best and on his way to a wedding when he spotted the flames from Tewantin.
"Bill saw the flames and came straight here and was on a fire hose without changing," Dave said.
"It heartens the spirit to see the community pull together like this."
Today the three destroyed homes were a jumble of roofing sheets, twisted metal posts and the ash of clothing, furniture and appliances.
Somewhere under the rubble was a brand new Dodge V12 four-wheel drive.
Mike still has his four-wheel drive, but the snorkel and the rear tyres simply melted from the radiant heat as did his water tanks all the way down to a water line that was low due to the ongoing dry spell.
All of the affected home owners were insured, with Dave saying they had rejected offers from others to do fund raising because they would all be able to regather and move on.
Lynne Hancock said the battle a friend was now having with a terminal illness and the loss of their own son at just 22, had put the events of the weekend into perspective.
All are buoyed by the support that materialised as quickly as the flames.
"If it was not for the urban fire service we would have lost our place," Dave said.
"Someone turned up with food, sandwiches and pea and ham soup. I don't even know their names."
Mike and Lynn were also stunned to receive a call from Michael Teevan who had mounted a collage of photos of their late son's art work, a favourite piece in the Hancock home.
Not only had Mr Teevan located the original image he offered to remount it on canvas so that it could take pride of place in the Hancock's new homes.
"We will be forever grateful," Mike said.
As they sifted through the wreckage the family was also able to recover a bust their son had made. It was cracked but repairable.
The US$750 Mike had squirrelled away towards his planned 70th birthday trip to Hawaii has gone, as has a priceless Lalaque vase and an irreplaceable antique sideboard as well as reading glasses, birth certificates, passports and other papers.
On any other day, Mike said, the carnage wouldn't have occurred but the strength of the wind was in his words "unbelievable".
Fire officer Brenden Riches who attended the breeze agreed.
He said the wind sent the flames in a straight line engulfing two properties to the west of of the first home, nearly fully engaging the Wright household and badly singeing another property to the east.