The unprecedented bushfires burning in the Hinterland resulted in an unwanted historic event for O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat overnight – it had its first night with no guests in almost a century.
The popular retreat safely sheltered around 100 people yesterday evening, after authorities deemed the access road too dangerous to evacuate.
Once conditions subsided, the group – including police, guests and staff – were able to leave safely.
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Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski says they were lucky the situation wasn’t much worse.
“Yesterday we had an incident where even the most trained can get caught out.
“We had 100 people at O’Reilly’s in the Lamington tableland and we sent police officers in there to evacuate them on an emergency alert.
“While the police were in there, the fire came through quickly and trapped them, so they returned to O’Reilly’s to shelter while we worked out what we were going to do.
“Fortunately for us, things changed in a way that we were able to get them out last night and all 100 people plus the 18 police who were in there came out safely,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
WATCH: POLAIR Vision of the bushfire threatening O’Reilly
It’s understood the retreat itself wasn’t under direct threat, though the Lamington National Park Road – the only access road to the top of the mountain- had been challenged in spots further down.
Retreat Manager Brendan Long told myGC today it was an unusual experience for the resort, though everyone involved handled the situation very calmly.
“The police were cautious so they asked us to enact our evacuation procedure, which we did.
“Staff and guests were terrific, and calmly and efficiently put that in place – so we made our way down to Canungra, and then found accommodation for everyone down here.
“We’re a bit fortunate that we’re surrounded by rain forest, that essentially doesn’t burn, so it’s very very unlikely that we’d ever have a serious fire issue up there.
“Last night would, have been the first night ever in 93 years that no one has been at O’Reillys, so it was a little spooky in some ways,” Mr Long told myGC at the Canungra base today.
Mr Long says the retreat is also home to around 85 staff members, and they’re all eager to get back up the mountain and back to work.