A landmark Gold Coast hinterland property which has welcomed guests since 1933 was decimated by bushfire following its evacuation last weekend.
While authorities are still trying to assess the full scale of the damage, several structures have been destroyed at Binna Burra Lodge, a heritage-listed property situated 800 metres above sea level overlooking the rainforest reserve of Queensland’s Lamington National Park.
Flames fanned by strong winds destroyed the heritage-listed wooden Groom’s Cottage that has stood since the 1930s, with other wooden lodges and the property’s new Sky Lodge apartments also badly affected.
“Early this morning it crept into the Binna Burra resort and there has been significant structural loss,” Scenic Rim Regional Council mayor Greg Christensen said of the fire.
“The majority of the commercial assets – the accommodation, the units, the restaurant and so forth – have also all been destroyed and there will be a significant recovery effort.
“That is what is deeply concerning, and fairly difficult … The really great news is that we continue to enjoy the outcome that we have had no loss of life.”
QFES Assistant Commissioner Kevin Walsh said the ferocious fires burned in the worst conditions he’d ever seen.
“Firefighters stood side by side battling wind gusts of up to 90km/h,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything as bad as that.”
The remoteness and inaccessibility of the terrain in the World Heritage-listed park hampered efforts to control the Binna Burra blaze.
“The main problem with the lodge is there is only one road in and one road out. We had crews in close vicinity of the lodge last night but they couldn’t actually make entry to the grounds,” said Walsh.
“The problem is that it is a very skinny road that is surrounded by huge trees, because it is in a national park obviously, and a lot of the trees’ bases have been burnt out so any type of wind … we have huge trees falling across the roads and it is an incredibly dangerous situation.”
Binna Burra Lodge chairman Steven Noakes fought back tears as he described the damage.
“It’s a dark day in the 86-year history of Binna Burra,” he said.
“[Fires] have destroyed much of the heritage building facilities and some of our more contemporary buildings also.”
The heritage-listed property was founded by conservationists Arthur Groom and Romeo Lahey in 1933 as a place for people to stay and experience the beauty of Lamington National Park. They bought the last remaining freehold title on the edge of the park and formed a public company to fund it.
Acting Queensland Premier Jackie Trad described Binna Burra Lodge as a “piece of our cultural heritage “which has been “part of Queensland’s tourism landscape since 1933” .
The blaze in the national park was one of more than 50 fires burning across the state on Sunday morning, Trad said, claiming at least 11 homes in Binna Burra and nearby Sarabah settlements.
Former staff member Cecilia O’Grady described the news as “like losing a family member,” while others shared their memories of the property on ABC Radio Brisbane, one recounting travelling to the lodge for dances “on Friday night from Brisbane, a crowded bus, everybody singing songs”.
One listener shared that he was married at the lodge, saying: “It was a special place for my wife and myself, we take our kids there. I’m just terribly sad.”
Mr Noakes vowed to rebuild the lodge, but told the ABC said the new design would have to reflect the changing climate.
“The board and the shareholders and those that know and love Binna Burra dearly can rest assured that we will build something again on this magnificent location inside Lamington National Park,” he said.
“We’ve never had these sort of conditions at this time of year, and we have to be able to build infrastructure that can adapt to those changing conditions of climate, and that’s what we’ll do.”