'Three of my clients have lost their homes': Brokers caught in the NSW fires

by Mackenzie McCarty22 Oct 2013

As fires continue to rage across parts of New South Wales, brokers are being thrust into horrific situations, fending off flames threatening to engulf their own homes – and comforting clients who have already lost theirs.

Springwood-based Aussie Home Loans broker, Kylie Pickham, was made to evacuate her home on Thursday as her husband stayed behind to help firefighters battle a blaze just across the road.

“I’ve got five clients who have been affected…three of them have lost their homes. I’ve spoken to all of them and guided them in the right direction as to what they need to do – ‘stay safe, contact your insurance company’ - I’ve also been trying to help them find accommodation through the local real estate agents up here. We’re very limited as to what we can do, but the community up here is just amazing and everyone helps one another out…it’s tough. It’s really tough.”

While Pickham’s house has escaped for now, 43 homes were lost on her sister’s street, just a kilometre away.

“Another fire’s sprung up close to Springwood again, not so close to us, fortunately. They’re saying the next few days are going to be pretty bad because it’s windy today and they’ve got a fire that’s not contained.”

Lynne Porter, a Mortgage Choice broker servicing Nepean and the surrounding area, says there is a lot of smoke and an eerie ‘orange haze’ in the sky.

“I live on acreage, so I spent all weekend ensuring that my home is as safe as possible by removing any potential fuel for a fire away from the house and surrounding area. In recent days we have been hearing lots of choppers overhead, and sirens too.

“I have had to postpone a few appointments when things seemed a little dangerous for us - there were blackened leaves falling on my verandas and in the gardens close to the house. While the threat wasn’t imminent, it was important that I took a little time to make the home immediately safer,” she says.

Porter admits it’s hard to concentrate ‘100%’ on her job while listening and watching for fire updates each day.  

“My home is not too far from the State Mine Fire (Lithgow, Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains), which is also a threat to some of my customers. Some of my customers are also affected by the fires at Mount York Rd, Mt Victoria and Linksview Rd, Springwood.”

Fellow Mortgage Choice broker, Debbie Worthington, is based at Lake Macquarie and says many of her customers have been evacuated.

“One customer in particular is halfway through the construction of their new home at Murray’s Beach. Due to all the evacuations, a few of my customers weren’t able to get their loan documents over to me in time for purchases that were already underway.  Some of my customers have moved to a hotel in anticipation of another bad week ahead.  Once a fire has taken hold you cannot get off their peninsula, so it is best to be prepared in advance.”

Worthington says that, if you have clients building in bush fire areas, it’s important that you make sure they check their construction insurance will cover this type of disaster, as well as what the builder’s plan of action is should the worst occur.

As for the outlook over the next few days, each woman had the same response: “It doesn’t look good.”


  • by Allison 22/10/2013 9:50:00 AM

    NAB has recently announced a range of releif options for customers who have been affected. I'm not sure which bank these clients were with but as well as contacting their insurance company they should also contact their lender to see what assistance is available. My thoughts are with all of those affected and hope they know they are not alone.

  • by Allistar Walker IFL Associates Ltd 22/10/2013 12:12:28 PM

    The thoughts of many New Zealanders are with you also. It is something that most of us over here find hard to comprehend.