Northcliffe fire recovery: Out of the fire-ing line and into the future

Out of the fire-ing line and into the future.

A South West town came perilously close to destruction in February this year when one of the state’s worst bushfires threatened homes and lives in Northcliffe.

Four months on from the fire Digital Journalist Andrew Elstermann and photographer Ashley Pearce headed south to tell the story of the town’s lucky escape and find out what they learned from the experience.

AMONG charred scrubland at the Northcliffe Golf Club lies a little wooden sign, the corner blackened and a few of the letters half burnt through.

It was damaged by the South West’s largest ever bushfire back in February which almost destroyed the rural town. 

Yet it still stands proud – burnt but not beaten.

The sign for the Northcliffe Golf Club was burnt but not beaten during February's large bushfire. Photo: Ashley Pearce.

The sign for the Northcliffe Golf Club was burnt but not beaten during February's large bushfire. Photo: Ashley Pearce.

The residents in this small community are much the same.

The thousands of fire fighters who went to war for Northcliffe, keeping watch over the town like guardian angels, have now left.

As have the media’s cameras that captured the walls of red-hot flames, ash falling from the sky like snow and helicopters flying overhead fighting a relentless foe.

WATCH: See how Northcliffe is recovering.

What remains is a strong country community who have dusted themselves off and got back to work.

Open for business signs are up on the shops and the people around town going about their day-to-day business are friendly.

Chatting to the locals they are upbeat about the region and the way they have banded together to recover from the fire.

But there is no escaping the fact they were very, very lucky.

If the fire had taken a turn for the worse, I would have been visiting nothing but charred ashes instead of the determined little town that remains.

Driving into town I was greeted with a view filled with lush, leafy green bushland. 

It was not until I passed through the main street and headed south that I came across the vast areas that had been ravaged by the inferno.

Standing in the bush and looking at nothing but burnt trees and scorched ground as far as the eye could see was a sobering experience.

More than 98,000 hectares of land around the Northcliffe region was burnt in February's bushfires but not one house or one life was lost. Photo: Ashley Pearce.

More than 98,000 hectares of land around the Northcliffe region was burnt in February's bushfires but not one house or one life was lost. Photo: Ashley Pearce.

The beautiful bush I saw on the way into town suddenly seemed a lot more ominous.

The fact that the fire burnt 98,000 hectares but only destroyed one home and didn't claim a single life, is nothing short of a miracle.

There is no doubt that one day bushfires will return to the region.

This time Northcliffe had a narrow escape but next time they might not be so fortunate.

Hell, it could easily be next summer unless drastic action is taken to reduce the hundreds of hectares still untouched by fire for decades.

Shire of Manjimup president Wade De Campo said February's bushfire helped put the South West town of Northcliffe on the map. Photo: Ashley Pearce.

Shire of Manjimup president Wade De Campo said February's bushfire helped put the South West town of Northcliffe on the map. Photo: Ashley Pearce.

Hopefully it won’t come to that and a plan is put in place to safeguard Northcliffe’s future.

A future that will continue to allow the locals to enjoy their little slice of paradise.