Devastated ... Bowraville racecourse manager Graham Keys.
Devastated ... Bowraville racecourse manager Graham Keys. Coffs Coast Advocate

Sifting through a lifetime of ashes

ON Monday morning, Graham Keys opened his cottage door and walked across the lawn to start mowing the Bowraville race track.

It was the last time there would be a door for the long-time racecourse manager to open.

Shortly before noon he stopped for a Coke and a bit of a look at the paper. “I heard a crackling noise and thought it was the dog chasing the cat across the gravel,” Mr Keys said. “Then I saw blue smoke, which I thought was from the mill over the road but then I spotted the flames and the smoke - they were coming from my kitchen.”

With the office phone dead, Mr Keys yelled across the paddock to neighbour Shannon Fry to get the fire brigade.

Without waiting for the brigades Mr Keys and Mr Fry grabbed hoses and jumped onto the roof of the racecourse building to protect the other buildings. “The heat was unbelievable - I couldn't get inside, I couldn't save anything.”

Twenty minutes later when the Macksville and Bowraville Brigades arrived, there was little they could do but extinguish what remained.

Yesterday Mr Keys was back at work, sifting through the ashes of his life. “Everything's gone, nothing's salvageable.

“I've lost all the photos of my three daughters growing up, all their sporting triumphs and achievements.

“That's the hardest part.”

And his plants. Mr Keys had a cool green haven under the shade cloth beside the little cottage.

But there's no question of Mr Keys moving away.

“This is my job. There are plans for me to move into the female jockeys' rooms in the short term.”

The cause of the fire is as yet unknown. If you want to offer assistance please phone 6564 7258.



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