Approximately 100 guests and staff were forced to evacuate O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, a historic rural tourist destination in South East Queensland, ahead of devastating bushfires that reached the area September 9.
This video shows the Australian property from the perspective of Stella, an eagle who stars in the retreat’s Birds of Prey Show, as she glided above the retreat on September 8 ahead of the drama that would unfold.
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski told Gold Coast–based media that the operation to evacuate the guests and staff was far from straightforward, noting it was an incident that showed “even the most trained can get caught out.”
Gollschewski said that after 18 police officers were sent in to evacuate the resort’s guests and staff, "the fire came through quickly and trapped them. So they returned to O’Reilly’s to shelter while we worked out what we were going to do. Fortunately for us, things changed in a way that we were able to get them out … all 100 people plus the 18 police who were in there came out safely,”
Surprisingly, the retreat was free to reopen on September 10.
Stella’s handler, Mark Culleton, told Storyful the bird has been “carrying action cameras for several years now. I made a harness that she wears with no fuss at all.”
Culleton said, “The fires were to the east of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, perhaps one kilometer away [to the left of the screen view] as she’s coming down. Westerly wind was blowing smoke away, fortunately.”
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat was founded in 1926. According to media reports, September 9 was the first night in almost a century with no guests on the property. Credit: Mark Culleton via Storyful