NSW bushfires: How this woman's tweet helped save her father's life

As flames bore down on Rappville, Carol Duncan took to Twitter to save the lives of her father and his partner. For John Duncan, the horror of bushfires is all too familiar.

With fire ravaging the small village of Rappville in northern New South Wales, 83-year-old John Duncan and his partner Cass bunkered down in their back shed.

“Steel doesn’t burn” Mr Duncan said, hoping the worst could be avoided. His daughter Carol had been following the situation from Newcastle, acutely aware of the impending danger.

Within minutes, Mr Duncan’s home was destroyed and the shed was next in line.

With communication lines impacted and a rapidly deteriorating situation, Carol sprung into action.

Turning to social media for help, Ms Duncan tweeted the Rural Fire Service to explain the grave risk her father and his partner were in.

The former ABC Presenter and journalist’s unorthodox action proved the difference-maker, with Rural Fire Service crews obtaining an address, rescuing the pair and getting them to safety just in the nick of time.

The shed was incinerated in the fire’s path.

Up to 30 properties are feared destroyed or severely damaged in Rappville and more than 1,000 firefighters have worked through the night battling to protect homes at Busbys Flat.

It’s a devastating sight and one Mr Duncan never hoped to see again.

Having lived through the devastation of the 2003 Canberra bushfires which killed four people and destroyed or seriously damaged more than 450 homes, Mr Duncan pulled up stumps and moved to Rappville in search of a fresh start.

The 2003 bushfires ravaged homes in the Canberra suburbs of Chapman and Duffy.
Source: DIG

16 years later, Ms Duncan is certain those mental scars are now back at the forefront of her father's mind.

"In that 3pm phone call yesterday when he told me they were going to shelter in that shed - he was so scared. My big, brave, tough dad was scared. He sobbed and he said it's just like Canberra all over again."

"I have absolutely no idea (whether he will return to Rappville). We will support him in what he wants to do. We'll help him and the village do what they want to do," she told SBS News.

Knowing his beloved home has been razed by fire, Mr Duncan faced the prospect of rebuilding his life with little more than the clothes on his back. 

John Duncan, pictured with his grandsons, is described by Ms Duncan as a 'proud man' and 'a classic pensioner battler'.
Source: Twitter/carolduncan

Using her sizeable social media presence, Ms Duncan turned to the internet once more for help, establishing a GoFundMe page to help collect money to assist in her father's recovery efforts.

"(I thought) I can't do that. I can't ask for help. I should be able to take care of this myself. I just don't have the resources to do that. My dad's house is insured, his car is insured for what they're worth. This is a village where nothing is worth very much. but it's home," she told SBS News.

"I deleted the GoFundMe three times before I just thought 'do it and people will either help or they won't'."

I deleted the GoFundMe three times before I just thought 'do it and people will either help or they won't'

Carol Duncan

Proving the best of humanity shines through in times of need, Ms Duncan's early financial goals were smashed within hours.

In less than a day, more than $13,000 has been collected to assist in the recovery effort.

Ms Duncan has told SBS News she is overwhelmed and grateful for the response to her GoFundMe page.
Source: GoFundMe

Ms Duncan says she has been humbled by the generosity, telling SBS News the funds will be shared to assist others who have been devastated by the disaster.

"It has been overwhelming. I'm so very grateful. One of the fundraising managers from GoFundMe reached out and said 'I saw your comment on the news about wanting to help the village and the RFS as well', so if you want to keep it running and ensure that funds go there they will help facilitate that which is fantastic," she said.

"Once we've got those essentials for dad, he's right."

For now, all attention turns to providing immediate support in the most difficult hours.

 "My eldest brother is on his way to Casino where dad and his partner are. Today their job is to just try to do the practical things...That's the same for maybe half the village."


Published 9 October 2019 at 12:13pm, updated 9 October 2019 at 4:10pm
By Adam Marsters