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Flowerdale family focussed on the future -

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Reporter: Alison Caldwell

ELEANOR HALL: Well as Victorians in the Lilydale area consider fleeing the approaching fires in
Flowerdale, some residents are returning to their town which was destroyed by the fires of the 7th
of February.

The Roycrofts have been in Flowerdale for generations and some members of their family have already
built a makeshift home on their burnt out block as Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: Brother of Olympic equestrian Bill Roycroft, Ross Roycroft is a resourceful,
resilient man in his seventies who's lived through Black Friday, Ash Wednesday, a house fire and
now this.

At night he and his wife Christine sleep in a van parked alongside what remains of their house
which was destroyed by the fire two weeks ago. A four poster bed and a filing cabinet hold up
what's left of the crumpled roof.

Only metres away is a small makeshift shelter which they'll move into soon until a new permanent
home can be built.

ROSS ROYCROFT: Soon as I can get to the hardware, I went and bought some timber, nails. I had to
buy a hammer and a saw and a level and a square and (laughs) bought a handsaw. Not an electric saw
because there is no power here of course and Chris and I put that up. I had a stack of iron down
here. These bits and pieces you can see made the walls on the outside.

John Dickman up the road, about two doors up the road, offered me some plywood sheets and we lined
it with those.

ALISON CALDWELL: Just behind the shelter is the creek that helped save them on Saturday February
the 7th.

With the house burning and the fire all around them, there was nowhere else to go.

ROSS ROYCROFT: The sheds were burning. It got too hot and the wind was blowing at 100 kilometres an
hour bringing the fire in from Whittlesea and we decided we'd go down the creek and sit it out. So
we did. We sat in the creek for an hour and a half. There was flames in the trees. There were
sparks and there was burning wood and burning rubbish.

It was reasonably safe. We just made sure the kids kept themselves wet and you know, ducked them
under every now and then and made sure they were wet and we just sat there until it was safe to go
on the other side and we went out the other side and slept on the ground.

ALISON CALDWELL: Roycroft grandson, 14-year old Jeyden Roycroft, will never forget what happened
that night.

JEYDEN ROYCROFT: And we ran down the creek and about halfway down, the house just went up and then
we ended up jumping into the creek and stuff, yeah.

ALISON CALDWELL: Was it scary?

JEYDEN ROYCROFT: It was pretty scary when we left the house because there was a lot of, there was
fire everywhere and all the, just like massive waves of embers just like hitting us.

ALISON CALDWELL: And then when you were sitting in the creek, was the fire all around you? What was
it doing?

JEYDEN ROYCROFT: Yeah, the fire was right at the banks and all the embers were coming right up
right up through the creek. I covered myself in water.

ALISON CALDWELL: The next day his grandfather had he and his brother Dylan rebuilding fences.
Distracted Jeyden Roycroft wanted to find out if his parents and sister had survived. They'd been
separated since early Saturday.

He went for a walk and found his house burnt to the ground. He also found the bodies of a woman and
her two children.

His mother Linda Roycroft says for nearly two weeks, her son held it together and focussed on
rebuilding, until Thursday. She's worried about his recovery.

LINDA ROYCROFT: That is my biggest concern to be honest. He went back to the house looking for us.
He was told not to go and he went anyway. I guess that's part of his age and he looked around our
house and saw there was nothing but he saw some people down the street and I hope that doesn't
linger with him.

I hope he can keep talking and feel better about what's a really bad situation that he was strong
enough to get through it.

ALISON CALDWELL: With the roads closed and phone lines down on the Sunday, Linda and John Roycroft
had no idea if their family had survived. The CFA (Country Fire Authority) brought terrifying news
that afternoon.

LINDA ROYCROFT: About three o'clock they said yup, we are going in and we'll check. We'll check all
the houses and they got back about 4.30 and they said, look we've checked all the remaining houses
that are standing and I'm sorry but your boys aren't amongst the survivors in those houses.

I wanted to be hopeful but I'd lost all hope.

ALISON CALDWELL: Almost simultaneously, John Roycroft managed to get through to his father.

JOHN ROYCROFT: And as she's walking back, I'm running and yelling from one side of the oval to my
brother-in-law saying 'they're alive, they're alive'.

ALISON CALDWELL: While Linda Roycroft doesn't want to return to Flowerdale, her husband John
Roycroft still feels an attachment to his childhood home.

His parents Ross and Christine Roycroft say by this time next year they'll be in their new home on
the other side of the creek.

ROSS ROYCROFT: Why not? We had a lovely garden. We'll have a lovely garden again. We got a creek
down the front of us. We will have a nice house. We are going to build those two houses over there
first because we'll put a kit home, get them to build a kit home and we'll live in that; probably
take three or four months and then we will take our time and clean this site up and we will build
the type of house Christine wants she saw. Starting to look at houses again.

ALISON CALDWELL: What does it feel like when you have been in a position of great independence
through your life but now you are in a position where people are offering you?

ROSS ROYCROFT: It makes me feel proud to be an Australian and in the other thing I still want my

ELEANOR HALL: Ross Roycroft in Flowerdale speaking to Alison Caldwell.

And the Prime Minister announced this morning that the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments will
jointly fund a cleaning up and demolition work program that is needed to coordinate the fire
affected communities.

Mr Rudd says the risk of hazards such as asbestos is so high that governments are taking these
extraordinary steps to pave the way for the rebuilding.