More than a year on from the devastating fires that all but wiped out the historic town of Yarloop, the South West timber-milling town is beginning to look less like a war zone and more like a building development.
On January 6, 2016, a destructive fire tore through 69,000 hectares within the Shires of Harvey and Waroona, destroying 181 residential and commercial properties and tragically killing two Yarloop residents.
For the people affected, it has taken a lot of time to adjust and move on with their lives, with many opting to relocate to neighbouring towns, saying goodbye to their memories as a Yarloop resident.
But for many others, such as homeowner Jackie Bateup, Yarloop will always be home and they are looking forward to their new life in the historic town.
Ms Bateup decided very early on that herself, her daughter Emma and granddaughter Trinity would rebuild in Yarloop, choosing Summit South West to build their new residence.
“We knew we were going to stay there,” Ms Bateup said. “It doesn’t matter if there were any houses rebuilt there or not, we decided we would rebuild.
“Nothing will ever compare to the home we had, but you are never going to get it back. You have got to move on.”
Prior to the fires, Ms Bateup lived in a beautiful heritage-style home on the corner of Johnson and Station Streets.
Fast forward to today and her build with Summit South West is nearing lock-up stage and has been cleverly designed to include enough space for each of the three generations of Bateup ladies to live comfortably under the same roof.
“I have had the granny flat incorporated into the design, so it is more of a multigenerational home,” Ms Bateup said.
“The people at Summit South West have been extremely helpful because we haven’t built before.
“We are moving on. We are building and looking forward, not back. What’s happened has happened and at the end of it we will get a nice, lovely new home.”
Summit South West General Manager David Hunt said his branch was more than happy to help the residents of Yarloop, as they had been through more than anyone could ever imagine.
“We have seven building contracts on the go at the moment in Yarloop and all of them are now at site,” he said.
“We did have some hold-ups waiting for the clearance certificates to come through, particularly the ones in the lower lying areas where the blocks were quite wet, but the last of those has now gone through to the construction team to start work.”
Mr Hunt said the Summit South West team willingly absorbed some of the costs of the new builds as the company wanted to help get the town rebuilt and see the clients back on their feet as soon as possible.
“The first thing we did from the very getgo was to offer to do the homes at no loading because obviously it costs money to get trades out there and also suppliers to deliver products,” Mr Hunt said.
“The other thing was there were some pretty heavy site works that needed to be completed in the area including engineering, sand pads and connection of services. All of those blocks required septic tanks to be replaced, and because of the high water tables, most of them had to be above the ground, so there was quite a bit of work in that.
“To help the clients, we did most of the ground works at little to no margin.”
Mr Hunt explained all clients were also placed on Summit’s Fast Track system which guaranteed a 22-week build time from the completion of the brickwork.
“We have done that because a lot of the residents are either living on the site in a caravan or shed or have had to relocate with family and friends or rent somewhere else,” he said. “Their lives have been completely thrown about.”
Article first published in The West Australian, New Homes magazine on February 18, 2017.