Tears, frustration, despair and kindness filled the hot hall in the hills of Perth as residents hit by Sunday’s devastating bushfire craned their necks to hear the worst.
Hundreds flowed into the recreation hall in Swan View, 10 minutes drive from where 24 hours earlier a catastrophic blaze gutted the communities of Stoneville, Parkerville and Helena Valley.
Four people are unaccounted for and 46 homes and two sheds have been destroyed by a ferocious bushfire in the Perth hills which burned through 650 hectares in the Shire of Mundaring on Sunday.
It has been contained but 275 firefighters are understood to be still battling to bring it under control.
At least 44 homes have been lost, with more scorched earth to be assessed.
And with piles of donations of clothes and toys gathering at the back, at the front emotions were running high.
Noelene Michels, from Helena Valley, knew her house was close to the fire zone.
She also knew her son was still there, and could not reach him by phone or foot due to roadblocks.
“We think it is ok, but we can’t get through to check,” Ms Michels said.
Support was on hand from Premier Colin Barnett, local federal MP Christian Porter and relevant agencies.
But something no one could offer was solid information, other than to say those who had lost their homes had been told – or would be soon.
Labor Senator Louise Pratt was awaiting news about her former family home in the centre of the 650-hectare fire zone.
Sally and Gary Elwood, from nearby Narla Way, already knew the worst.
“I am a bit shocked, but until I physically see, it won’t hit me fully – but I have seen it on Facebook so I know it is ours,” Ms Elwood said.
“I know it is gone, but my glass is half full – the kids are fine, everyone is fine. We will just rebuild, at 48 – bloody hell.”
Mr Elwood, it turned out, had fought until the end to save their home of 30 years.
“He wouldn’t answer his phone, but then I got hold of him and told him to get out of there,” Ms Elwood said.
With disaster relief from the state government to come, there will be some short-term help for victims.
The long-term will be a long rebuild.