"The devastation of this fire … it's bloody a bit scary, actually."
IT'S NOT surprising St Kilda assistant coach Brendon Lade struggled to comprehend the magnitude of the Kangaroo Island bushfires when he returned to his former homeland earlier this month.
Kilometres of scorched earth, blackened soil, and haunting scenes of pine forests stripped bare by the fires that roared across the island in the first week of January greeted Lade, Jarryn Geary and Matt Parker when they visited in February.
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They were there to see a community that relies on tourism, after their busiest time of the year was destroyed by the blazes that forced evacuations and massive loss of land and wildlife, plus two human lives.
The Western Districts Football Club was gutted, with Lade devastated by what was left of the club he spent three seasons with.
"It was all gone. There was nothing left to fight for. It was done. It was just kaput," club president Tony Nolan said.
And, they met with local kids, who witnessed firsthand the inferno that turned the sky black and stole some of their homes after they were evacuated when they should have been playing with their Christmas presents.
"I learned to love this town a lot. I love being here, I love coming back here," Lade said.
"I was here when the fires were happening but it's my first time back … it'll be a bit eerie but I'll get a bit of sense of how big it actually was."
Watch as Lade makes an emotional return to the place he called home for 16 years, and as Geary and Parker do their bit to lift the morale of a community still reeling from the devastating fires that have left Kangaroo Island unrecognisable.
Thanks to Marsh for their support in making this trip to Kangaroo Island possible. As a world-leading insurance broker and risk advisor, Marsh is proud to support organisations and communities affected by bushfires across Australia. Marsh is currently working with the Western Districts Community Sports Club on their road to recovery, as well as multiple organisations across Kangaroo Island affected by fire. As the Official Risk Partner of the AFL, Marsh is also helping clubs get back on their feet by helping to raise funds for the AFL Community Relief Fund. Learn more here.