Margaret River residents yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the town’s worst bushfires in living memory — but they believe the road to recovery has only just begun.

More than 150 residents last night gathered in a fire-blackened reserve in Prevelly to remember the blazes, but only a few of those who lost homes have begun to rebuild.

National Australia Bank chairman Michael Chaney said yesterday that no decision had yet been made on rebuilding his 150-year-old Wallcliffe House.

Local MP Barry House told last night’s commemoration the year had been “heart-breaking and heart-warming”.

“This is not the end, but we can see the beginning of the end,” he said.

For those still working hard to return to their homes, comfort has come in the company of others and by enshrining their memories in art.

Artist Mark Heussenstamm lost two houses and his business in the blazes and has installed more than 40 birdhouses, built by residents, at Prevelly to mark the 47 houses destroyed.

Mr Heussenstamm said the birdhouses represented the efforts of Margaret River residents to rebuild their lives.

“It’s about renewal now and everyone is ready to start rebuilding their lost houses, so we put out a call for people to build and bring down 47 birdhouses, which represents the 32 houses and eight chalets which were burned down, and the houses which were burned so badly they were later written off,” he said.

“You’d think (rebuilding) would happen real fast, but in fact it’s real slow, for most people it’s only just started after the paperwork.”

The West Australian

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