Paradise lost as fire razes 4000ha

IF YOU had visited Half Moon Bay on Thursday, its hourglass sand and azure waters would have been the most striking feature.

But much of the pristine bushland south of Bicheno is now scorched earth.

Yesterday's East Coast bushfire ate through 4000 hectares of dry scrub and spread a blanket of confusion over residents of Bicheno, Swanwick and Coles Bay.

Entire communities were disoriented as residents and visitors waited anxiously for news of the encroaching flames.

The fire threat was downgraded last night, and the Tasman Highway reopened.

Fire crews were backburning around the Coles Bay Road.

Harveys Farm Road residents Paul and Donna Male were one kilometre from the fire front.

The family was well prepared, having set up various water appliances, and they spent most of yesterday waiting and watching from their verandah.

"We have been pretty lucky so far," Mrs Male said.

"I really feel for the guys down at Half Moon though."

There were reports that up to five properties south of Bicheno had been destroyed as of last night.

Visitors and passers-through were also affected by the blaze.

The Freycinet and Douglas Apsley national parks were closed, while people were encouraged to leave Coles Bay yesterday morning to avoid being cut off from the Tasman Highway.

Temporary East Coast residents made up most of the 20 people at the Bicheno Community Hall evacuation centre on Friday night.

Glamorgan-Spring Bay Mayor Bertrand Cadart, whose own home on Harveys Farm Road was in the fire path, said that the East Coast could struggle to salvage its summer in the wake of the fires.

"It will leave a scar here for the rest of the summer," Cr Cadart said.

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