Heartbreaking photo of livelihoods lost

Emalee Millar took this photo of her father and his boss and workmate, as they watched the Burnside blaze yesterday afternoon. Photo / Facebook
Emalee Millar took this photo of her father and his boss and workmate, as they watched the Burnside blaze yesterday afternoon. Photo NZ Herald/ Facebook

A heartbreaking photo has been sweeping social media following the devastating damage caused by the Burnside fire in Dunedin yesterday. 

Three men sitting atop a roof, utterly dejected as they survey the blaze that has their livelihoods going up in flames.

Emalee Millar, of Dunedin, took this photo of her father, his boss and his workmate, as they watched the Burnside blaze yesterday afternoon.

"Man it's utterly devastating watching a grown man cry watching his business in flames," said Emalee.

"All him and his workers including my dad can do is sit there helpless and hope for the best outcome. So so sad."

The men, sitting on a corrugated iron roof, were looking down at the Valley Lumber yard on McLeod's Road as the fire raged.

Emalee's sister Sam posted the picture to a local Facebook group with the caption: "My father, his boss and workmate look towards the timber yard in Kaikorai Valley that his boss owns.

"Watching it go up in flames. Just devastating. So many emotions in one photo. Heart wrenching seeing grown men cry."

The photo has had thousands of likes on Facebook and lots of comments sympathising with the three men and the loss of the business.

"Absolutely devastating for the poor guy. So much hard work in flames," replied one of Emalee's friends on social media.

"This rips my heart apart this pic shows a million emotions I'm so sorry," wrote another.

"Oh my God, this is devastating, I'm so sorry, I can't imagine how the poor guy must be feeling losing his livelihood. Send my love his way, your way, and strength," said another friend.

Peter Chalmers, who owns the Valley Lumber yard in the industrial suburb of Burnside, estimated he had lost $250,000-$300,000 worth of stock and his livelihood for the winter after up to 1000 tonnes of dry wood went up in flames.

He said it only took 15 minutes from a puff of smoke to spread to two fires in his "tinder dry" yard.

"The speed of it was just frightening.

"We were running around with fire extinguishers and buckets of water but it overwhelmed us. Little flames turned to 10m high," he said.

He said he would assess the damage when he was allowed back on the property.

"I think the whole lot will be gone."

But it was not just his business, Chalmers told Radio NZ.

"There's industrial buildings on fire. There's a truck repair firm, I'd say they're wiped out," he said.

"There's drums of volatiles exploding at the truck repair firm. There's a lot of buildings there with storage and everything but, I'd say, it's a total loss."

The massive blaze started as a small vegetation fire about 4.45pm yesterday.

It covered more than 20ha and at least 100 homes were evacuated and three industrial buildings were destroyed.

At the height of the fire, six helicopters, 25 crews and about 100 firefighters were battling it.

Evacuated residents gave emergency services a round of applause at a briefing this morning.

They have been told they can go home but warned the smell of smoke would linger.


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