Dad loses everything and now he has to face court
RYAN Hodges saw the property he'd worked his entire life for go up in flames but instead of being allowed to go back and fight the fires, he was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Yeppoon Police Station.
The 42-year-old man was having a "quiet drink" at home on Saturday afternoon at his Norpine Rd property, Bungundarra when he could see the fire in the hills in the distance.
He's seen plenty of fires before and thought he and his family were safe.
But come 3pm the wind changed direction and headed their way.
With 25 hectares and plenty of gear in the shed and houses, they tried to load up cars, but the inferno was moving too quickly.
"It got to the point where we just had to go … the roar, until you experience it you don't understand the intensity of it, at nightime when all you've got is the glow and the roar, it's hectic, it's just crazy, there's ambers flying everywhere," he said.
His wife Justine and their two children, aged 11 and 15, left and Ryan was letting the animals out when police arrived and told him he needed to leave.
By now it was around 6.30pm. He drove out and got 200 metres up the road. His last vision was his property going up in flames.
"It's what I've worked for my entire life," he said.
He did a u-turn and wanted to go back to try to save his house only to be stopped by police to do a breath test.
Ryan said he told police he had just been evacuated and wanted to go back to his house but said the police were not interested in helping him.
"I was crying on the side of the road, a 42-year-old man … and I was told to stop sobbing and save it for someone who cares," he said.
"I had no intentions of driving, it was a Saturday afternoon at home."
He was taken back to the Yeppoon police station where he blew 0.113 and his license was suspended.
Ryan wasn't able to determine how many beers he'd had as it happened so quickly but he says he hadn't drunk much water or eaten that day so he was probably dehydrated and it might have read higher than it really was.
Owner of Particular Painting and Decorating, his work van filled with supplies was left in the middle of Woodbury Rd where it remained until it was picked up the next day.
"They compromised my whole livelihood," Ryan said.
On Sunday morning he went home to check out the damage and while he was fairly sure it was all gone, the sight was devastating.
His 5.5 metre boat with 5mm thick aluminium was burnt down to the concrete and turned to liquid.
Half the house was damaged but the whole structure was compromised.
Ryan's son rides national motocross and has lost $30,000 in motorbikes and parts.
The shed itself was filled with $800,000 worth of equipment, which has all been incinerated.
"We have 60 acres of bush, there is nothing on the ground. It was all thick, dense bush and it's all dirt now. The trees are all gone, it's all incinerated, there aren't even logs left," Ryan said.
"Nothing was salvageable."
The chickens went back into the coop as it's their safe home, but they were burnt.
The family had cattle, pigs and goats and they have no idea where they are, alive or not.
While coming to terms with this, Ryan can't comprehend how he was treated by police.
His business employs six staff and he does three to four jobs a day, needing his license to drive to and from each one.
"I've lost everything and they want to take my livelihood away now too," he said.
Ryan was told he wasn't allowed to drive until his court date, which is on December 12.
"You don't in a disaster situation wait down the road with a breathalyser," Ryan said.
Also niggling in the back of his mind is the 'what if' - what if he was allowed to go back in?
Could he have saved his property?
"I could have saved my house if they let me go back there," he said.
"There's plenty of people that stayed behind and fought their property."
Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga told The Morning Bulletin she couldn't comment on the matter as it was before the courts.
"Sometimes in the midst of of a natural disaster, adrenaline takes hold and you make silly decisions," she said.