Camp hosts’ dreams up in smoke after campsite fire

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Fire devastates grey nomads
The Drydens were devastated when their LandCruiser was gutted by fire and their van badly damaged. badly damaged

More than two months after their Big Lap dreams went up in smoke, grey nomads Stephen and Julie Dryden are battling the odds – and bureaucracy – to get back on the open road.

The couple were acting as camp hosts at the Cosy Corner campsite, near Kronkup, west of Albany in Western Australia when their 4WD was gutted and their caravan damaged in a suspected arson attack.

They were asleep in their caravan when their 200 series LandCruiser went up in flames just after midnight on March 6. No one was injured in the incident, but the couple’s 4WD, worth $68,000, was destroyed, and their Regal Commander caravan badly damaged.

Earlier in the long weekend, the Drydens had

Grey nomad camp hosts

In limbo … Stephen and Julie Dryden.

called for help in dealing with a large group of unruly campers. When a Shire Ranger, accompanied by police, evicted the troublemakers, the group threatened the camp hosts.

“The campground was subjected to several disruptive and dangerous ‘drive throughs’ and verbal abuse directed at the Camp Host Site over the next two nights,” said Julie. “We firmly believe we were targeted and that this was an act of retaliation.”

Albany Police are still investigating the incident.

While many weeks have now passed, the impact on Stephen and Julie – who have been fulltime grey nomads for five years – has been devastating.

“We have had to rely on the generosity of Albany locals for transport and accommodation as we wait for our ‘home’ to be repaired,” said Julie. “And, needless to say, all travel plans have ground to a halt!”

The couple says replacing their 4WD with a comparable model cost them $25,000 more than their insurance payout, and they estimate the loss of vehicle contents cost them more than $20,000.

“Whilst the physical and emotional impact of this event has taken its toll on us, the financial losses are our most concerning issue,” said Julie. “In the course of volunteering our services to the City of Albany it appears that we will be out of pocket to the tune of about $50,000 … as self-funded travellers that’s a significant ‘hit’ and will, of course, impact on our future travel plans.”

The couple approached the City of Albany for compensation, but have just heard that the council and its insurance company have rejected their claim, as it does not fall under the City’s Public Liability cover.

“We are also very disheartened and disappointed in the City of Albany’s reluctance to assist us further, particularly as they appear very keen to encourage travellers into their region,” said Julie. “The fire has seriously impacted on our lives and, unfortunately, our love of the south west has been soured.”

While hundreds of grey nomads enjoy hassle-free camp hosting stints, the Drydens say their experience – albeit extremely unusual – has highlighted significant flaws in some camp host programs. They say questions about training, emergency processes, levels of authority, safety, accountability and insurance have to be asked … and answered.

The City of Albany says its insurer has concluded that, as the damage was caused by criminal third party activity, the council had no legal responsibility. However, City of Albany Chief Executive Officer Andrew Sharpe, said that in a sign of good faith the authority had extended its counselling program to the Drydens and was doing all it could to assist.

“We understand this decision was extremely disappointing for Mr and Mrs Dryden and council is considering what other support it can provide to address their losses,” he said. “The City wholeheartedly thanks Mr and Mrs Dryden for the services they provided as camp hosts, and hopes this experience will not deter them from travelling and volunteering in future.”

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7 Responses to Camp hosts’ dreams up in smoke after campsite fire

  1. Typical Council. Give them counselling! That’s not going to get them into a comparable towing vehicle.

  2. Well done City of Albany for supplying Counselling services. Isn’t that where everyone sits around and talks about it but nothing else happens? They were volunteering to help YOU. Time to return the favour

  3. I gave a truck and couldnt get 20k worth of contents in it so dont know how the hell they would get in a land cruiser and not be well over loaded not to mention the room it would take

  4. Surely the City of Albany have a duty of care to their camp hosts and this should be reflected in providing some form of Insurance or at the very least a goodwill payment towards loss of property of their volunteers. I would be looking at legal advice.
    Unfortunately this would make alot of volunteers think twice

  5. Dreadful and frightening experience for the Drydens, however sounds like the Albany community has rallied to help. However this reinforces the need to be fully insured.

  6. Yep RV Friendly even with their volunteers, and the state govt wants to know why the visitor Nos have dropped off…. open your eyes

  7. What is camp hosting?

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