By Paul Dobbyn
ADELAIDE Hills priest Fr Alfred Farrugia said he gives “thanks to God” for the narrow escape St Joseph the Worker Church, Lobethal, has had from bushfires.
The parish’s other two churches – St Matthew’s at Birdwood and St Matthew’s at Bridgewater – had not been under threat so far, he said.
The bushfires have destroyed or badly damaged 26 homes and scorched 12,500 hectares in the north-east of the Adelaide Hills.
More than 700 firefighters, including crews from NSW and Victoria, have been battling to control the blaze which started at Sampson Flat on Friday, January 2.
There have been 29 reports of injuries, mainly firefighters suffering smoke inhalation, and one person who was hospitalised after an asthma attack.
Weekend Mass numbers in Adelaide Hills’ churches were down, particularly at Birdwood, as a result of the fires.
“This was because quite a number of families, especially those new to the area, had fled, being quite terrified by the situation,” Fr Farrugia said.
“Also parishioners from Gumeracha in the north did not come to Mass because they knew if they left their homes the police would not let them back in.”
Fr Farrugia said there was a sense fire crews were getting on top of the situation.
“Last Saturday was very alarming,” he said on January 6.
“At the moment, things are not as threatening, although this can rapidly change.
“Temperatures in excess of 38 degrees Celsius are forecast for today and tomorrow.
“This could cause more problems.”