Piece of local history lost in Red Hill bushfire

Published on: Wednesday, March 20, 2024

A cottage rich with local history has been destroyed in a bushfire which tore through Wandoo Heights nature reserve.

The fire started in Red Hill about 12.40pm on Tuesday, March 19, covering 650 hectares over the next 24 hours.

Easterly winds pushed the blaze towards Wandoo Heights, 22ha of largely virgin bushland that was gifted to the City of Swan in 1988.

No homes have been reported lost thanks to a huge firefighting effort involving volunteers, career firefighters and aerial support.

But sadly, the fire reached Wandoo Heights and razed the cottage beloved by many in the Swan community.

The cottage was previously owned by Olive Gear, Adela Hyde and Harry Hyde, the former chaplain at Guildford Grammar School.

The trio acquired the bushland property in 1960 for its educational and environmental values.

They built the cottage with the help of Guildford Grammar School students.

Sadly, Mr Hyde drowned in 1962 while rescuing a student on an excursion to the coast.

But Ms Gear and Ms Hyde continued their work and maintained the property with the help of volunteers.

They also set about improving access to the bushland so that people could experience it without causing damage.

It quickly became a popular destination for hikers and people wanting to see a wide range of wildflowers.

In 1988, with maintenance becoming too difficult for the owners, they entrusted it to the City.

The late Grant MacKinnon, a well-respected City of Swan staff member, was instrumental in keeping the property in fantastic condition over the next three decades.

A memorial bench and plaque were installed at Wandoo Heights in tribute to Mr MacKinnon who passed away in 2018.

The memorial bench and plaque are still standing after this week’s bushfire, albeit scorched.

Tanya Richardson, City of Swan Mayor, said it was a poignant moment for many City staff and local residents.

“Wandoo Heights is a special place with a special history and although the bushland can regrow, the cottage cannot,” Mayor Richardson said.

“That property has been maintained with so much care over the years and it’s sad to see a piece of local history lost.

“Once we have the all-clear, our staff will go into the area and start assessing the environmental impacts of this fire.”

The Red Hill bushfire was downgraded to a Watch and Act just after 4pm on Wednesday, March 20.

For the latest alerts, visit www.emergency.wa.gov.au.

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