Terri Irwin was left devastated after she was forced to evacuate Australia Zoo while a massive bushfire threatened to destroy the popular tourist attraction.
The conservationist and her dedicated staff cleared out three enclosures closest to the raging fire as a precaution when the situation escalated to critical levels, destroying 180 hectares in Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast.
Ten fire crews remained stationed at Australia Zoo on Sunday, November 5, on hand to fight the fire as it blazed towards the compound and surrounded Steve Irwin Way - leaving a very anxious Terri waiting nervously for updates on the inferno.
'It was a horrible day for Terri - to say that she was devastated at the thought of losing everything that she and Steve, not to mention Bindi and Robert, had worked so hard to create is an understatement,' a zoo source tells New Idea.
'Australia Zoo is not only important to Terri and her children because of their conservation efforts - but also because it was a very big part of Steve's life. For them, he has lived on through the zoo. Having the zoo go up in flames would have been heartbreaking for all of them.
'As a result, Terri was desperately waiting for updates from the emergency crews on how the fire was progressing - she was tenterhooks the whole time. Such a harrowing time.'
While the amazing efforts of firefighters eventually paid off and Australia Zoo was saved, it's the long-term devastating effect of the fire that is sure to haunt Terri.
'The fire threatened 30 homes and burnt through nearly 200 hectares of land, which means that much of the local flora and wildlife surrounding Australia Zoo has been destroyed or critically damaged as a result,' the source says. 'It breaks Terri's heart - but she knows the wildlife hospital at Australia Zoo will do everything they can to help the injured animals.'
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!