Pasco missionary, 19, escapes wildfires in Australia that surrounded town

Cameron Myers began his missionary work in Australia in mid-November.

“When I landed, it was blue skies and it was super nice,” Cameron said. “Everyone told me I got here at the perfect time because it was super smoky right before that.”

A few weeks later on New Year’s Eve, Cameron woke up to a sky of darkness in the coastal town of Narooma in New South Wales, where he’d been sent to spread the gospel as wildfires raged all around him.

Cameron said four wildfires were burning within 15 to 30 minutes of the town where he was staying, and on that Tuesday morning, the smoke was so thick that it looked like night.

He said the air had gotten smoky a couple weeks after he first arrived, and he wasn’t too alarmed by the darkness at first.

When he looked outside his apartment, he could see a wall of flames just a few miles away out of town, and a sense of fear began to sink in. That’s when he and his mission companion rushed to pack up their things in case they needed to evacuate. He said they were advised to keep their bags packed and sleep on the beach if necessary.

Then around 10 a.m. that morning, the power went out, cell service went down and all the roads that leading out of the town closed to the public.

He said thousands of people from surrounding towns evacuated because their towns were already in flames, and their cars formed long lines going into Narooma, one of the few towns in the area that hadn’t already been destroyed.

For the next 48 hours, Cameron said the only way to communicate with his family was through a single phone booth that had free wifi.

“There was this huge line of people trying to get to the phone booth to call their families and stuff. There was probably over 100 people who were huddled around it just trying to get onto the free wifi. So that was the only way I was able to call my mom and just tell her that we’re fine,” Cameron said.

He said people were parking their cars and trailers all over empty fields, and many people brought tents but very few other things since they had to leave their homes in a hurry. He said many people didn’t have access to food because all the grocery stores closed after the power outage.

A neighbor at Cameron’s apartment gave him and his companion some bread and bananas, which they shared with evacuees who gladly accepted it.

On Thursday morning, Jan. 2, a road that went south of Narooma opened up, so Cameron and his companion jumped at the chance leave town and head for Sydney, where the missionaries had been driving periodically for meetings.

Cameron said what was normally a six hour drive ended up taking about 11 hours because of the fires.

Now he’s safe and staying in Sydney, but plans to head back to Narooma once it’s safe, which took be several weeks from now.

He said he remains focused on the work he does for his church, and that his goal is to bring people the same happiness and hope that the gospel has given him. He will be returning home to the Tri-Cities once his mission is completed in October 2021.

Cameron graduated from Chiawana High School in 2019 before embarking on his mission.