’Absolutely shattered’: Vow to rebuild historic lodge
AS firefighters fought their way towards Binna Burra lodge early Sunday morning they heard glass shattering in the historic old buildings.
Already on the defensive and cut off from their heavy equipment, which was blocked behind dozens of massive gum trees strewn across the road, they were ordered to abort the rescue mission about 3am as conditions worsened.
They knew the popular tourist attraction was in critical danger with some reporting seeing flames inside the lodge and restaurant before they left.
Those fears were confirmed soon after first light as water bombing helicopters returned to the skies and their crews reported the total destruction of the popular tourist attraction.
Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen said the damage to the lodge was "quite extreme".
"The lodge tragically has been fully destroyed," he said.
"The majority of the commercial assets, the accommodation units, the restaurant and so forth have also all been destroyed and there will be a significant recovery effort."
Binna Burra Lodge staff took to Facebook over the weekend, issuing increasingly urgent updates to guests that the iconic resort was under direct threat and was being evacuated.
Finally, around 11am yesterday came the news many had feared: the Lodge had been lost. Ariel photographs of buildings built in 1933 razed by the flames were posted to social media.
"This is a very sad day for us all," the post read.
The Sky Lodges, a group of award-winning $12m luxury apartments with views to Numinbah Valley, were also heavily damaged by the fire.
Historic Binna Burra Lodge was an eco-favourite for locals and international tourists alike, offering nature-lovers a dose of serenity for generations.
Lamington National Park ranger Will Buch says multiple generations of families have celebrated weddings, anniversaries and birthdays in the dining and recreation rooms which were handcrafted from an old Canungra boarding house.
Local tallowwood slabs and stringybark shingles were used to build the cabins at the resort founded in 1933 by conservationists Arthur Groom and Romeo Lahey, who wanted visitors to enjoy the Lamington National Park rainforest.
"It is the sort of place where people come and stay a week, to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature," Mr Buch said.
He said guests were treated to "old-school" activities like a flying fox, abseiling, bush walking, bird walks, card games and social events and the lodge attracted a loyal following of repeat guests, some whose parents or grandparents married there.
"We are absolutely shattered," he said. "Some of the buildings are over 100 years old, that's irreplaceable."
"The usual questions go through your mind. What else could have been done?"
Mr Buch said that fortunately the breathtaking views would soon return, because fire-prone vegetation recovers "very quickly".
Marriage celebrant Josh Withers, who has overseen four weddings at the venue, said the lodge's tranquillity and serenity lured visitors from far afield.
"It's just one of those places in the hinterland you feel like you're a million miles away.
"Driving up you go through the beautiful forests and winding roads and arrive to this really warm and hospitable feeling at the resort," Mr Withers said.
"It has a real 'up in the mountains' feel, and a view that really does take your breath away," he said.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said Binna Burra has been an iconic Gold Coast attraction for generations.
"We'll work with the operator to help them get back on their feet in coming weeks," she said.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Service Assistant Commissioner Kevin Walsh said the blaze had destroyed about 10 other properties along the Binna Burra Rd.
Peter Eckett, who has lived at Binna Burra for 30 years, left his property on Friday and has been unable to return with police turning him back when he got within about 4km on Saturday.
However firefighters told him his house had been "completely burnt to the ground".
"You get emotional, it's a shock and a big loss," he said.