KEVIN Kealley remembers the day vividly – even though it was almost 13 years ago.
“It was the 12th of the 12th 1999,” he recalled yesterday.
He got the call about 2pm and with a lot of other locals dashed to the Busselton Jetty to be confronted by the tip of it ablaze.
So, there was a lot of satisfaction when he was able to take part in the reopening of the section, which marked the completion of the jetty.
Kevin, who is the jetty’s maintenance officer, was famously photographed at the time staring at the blazing section of the jetty besides a chainsaw.
He was among the many people who had been able to segregate the tip of the jetty and stop it from damaging any more of it.
“It’s not my story,” he said, though the graphic photo seemed to personify the event. “I was just one of the many people there at the time.”
He still has no idea how the fire started. And while it has taken so long for the section to finally be rebuilt he believes there was always a positive attitude that it would be, after the initial disappointment of seeing it burn.
Like many others he put in a long day, leaving about 12 hours after he first arrived to fight the fire.
And his thoughts of being part of the group that signed off on the jetty completion: “It’s just a damn good feeling to be involved in it.”
Kevin paid tribute to the local community and Busselton Jetty Environment and Conservation Association (BJECA) for their efforts of supporting the jetty and ensuring it would one day be restored.
He said no one seemed to be interested in saving it in the early stages of the fire, particularly as the jetty had been devastated previously by Cyclone Alby.
“They (locals) kept it going. They held it together, with such things as local fundraising – now the tourist dollar can keep it going,” he said.
“Tourism needs the jetty, the town needs it.”