By Rebecca Peppiatt
The clean-up of damaged properties in the Perth Hills has finished, eight months after a bushfire tore through the towns of Wooroloo and Gidgegannup.
Eighty-six properties were lost in the February 1 disaster that was started by an angle grinder with the communities now faced with the tough task of re-building their homes.
For Eric Warren, whose house sits on Tilden Drive, it was a bittersweet moment when he was told his home had survived, but a shed housing his rare classic car collection was gone.
“I was devastated,” he said.
“One of them was a 1956 Buick convertible that was apparently previously owned by Rolf Harris.
“I used to drive that when I was 22 and was halfway through its restoration.”
Mr Warren lost seven cars in total, as well as his shed and fences, but the house he has also restored lovingly over the past 30 years managed to survive the inferno.
“I lost two downpipes on the house and that was it,” he said.
“The fire came up the paddock right at it, but maybe the heat just went up and over the bank, the wind might have just blown it out of the way.”
Mr Warren was not at the property when the fire came through the area and was told by a neighbour his house was still standing but his shed was not.
“My daughter heard it on the radio and called me, going on about the fire,” he said.
“I didn’t know what she was talking about but I got on the DFES [Department of Fire and Emergency Services] map and the line between the red and the black was between my house and my shed for about 10 minutes.
“I was watching from Perth and thought maybe they’ve put it out, but they hadn’t.”
Mr Warren asked not to be made a priority when it came to the clean-up of the burnt properties.
“I told them to put mine on the end of the queue because I still had my house and some people had lost theirs and they just wanted the mess cleared away,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I just felt so lucky my house was here because I couldn’t replace this.
“The plan was to retire and finish the house off, which I’m doing now.”
Mr Warren said the community spirit was always strong in the Tilden area, but since the devastation of the bushfire, the community had come together even more than before.
“This is the best community,” he said.
“Everyone looks out for one another.
“Everyone has pitched in to help each other out with things they might need that were lost in the fire and checking in to make sure they’re okay.
“Everyone has come much closer together.”
It will be next year before Mr Warren has a shed again but he’s more worried about his neighbours still living in makeshift temporary homes.
“I’m quite surprised how well people are holding up,” he said.
“People are living in dongas.
“It’s tiny, it’s freezing cold, there’s no air conditioning or any of those sorts of things.
“It’s like living in a sea container basically.”
Mr Warren said there were a small number of people who will not build again in the area.
“For some people it’s just too traumatic or it’s financially impossible for them,” he said.
“At the end of the day, when you drive up and you see all your neighbours houses are totally gone, I thought well, I’m lucky.”