*** I'm just going to mention here that the following post is the true story of my experience with bushfires. It was not a nice experience and you may not enjoy reading it, so feel free to move on. I do however, share the details for a underwear drive to help the victims of the recent Tasmanian bushfires at the end. Thanks ***
Some of you may be aware that this past week Australia has been hit by a heatwave, parts of the country have been ravaged by horrific bushfires and many, many people have evacuated their homes as warnings of "Catastrophic" level fire danger have been issued.
I grew up in the bush, in a lovely little town with windy roads, huge trees, kangaroos, echidneas and wombats. I even remember seeing Kangaroos one morning when we were waiting for the school bus! It rained a lot and the bush was thick. Back in those days it was still somewhat isolated with many people not being on town water, gas or electricity.
I remember one day, a very hot summer day. I remember my family driving up to the top of a big hill to see how close the fires were and returning home thinking we were fine. I remember playing in the yard in my nightie and a helicopter flying low overhead telling us to evacuate. I remember first one column of smoke, then three, then a wall of smoke. I remember my parents rushing to collect pets and photos and evacuate.
We drove to our friend's house in the valley to warn them of the danger, they had no idea. My Dad and the other man drove into town to volunteer to fight the fire. My Mum, the other woman, her baby and I bundled into one car and drove toward safety. Except a few kilometers down the road (a windy bush road in a valley) we turned a corner and were confronted with a burnt out scene.
I remember the panic in the air as we turned the car around and drove back to town. We found my Dad, my Mum was shaking so much she couldn't drive. We abandoned one of our cars by the side of the road. Many families were sheltering in the town Kindergarten, but they were full and asked us to move on. We joined a queue of cars making a slow trip out of town. The fire was so close. At one point a fireball crossed the road and a wall of flame was in front of our van. Being a van we were sitting on the engine, my father remembered a friend telling him it takes time for a car engine to explode, so, judging that the car in front of us had moved forward, he drove us through the fire. I panicked as a spark flew in through the air vent and burnt my knee.
I remember at one point a Policeman stopping us and asking where we were headed and telling us yes, the road their should be safe. It was with great relief that we arrived at the house of our friends.
Back in 1983 communications were not what they are today and it was a couple of days before we knew what had happened to our house. I remember visiting the mall on the day after we evacuated to buy underwear. We didn't know if we had any other than those we were wearing. It is such a loss of dignity and so surreal when everyone else is continuing their normal routine and you might only have the clothes on your back.
We were the last house on our road, at the top of a hill, bush on one side, paddocks on the other sides. The story goes that the firefighters chose to fight the fire at our property, to cut off that arm of it. Our entire acreage was burnt to a crisp. Part of our roof was damaged. Most of the windows exploded in the heat, as did the pipes.
I remember returning home for the first time. As we drove up our hill everything was green until we got to our property line. It was burnt. The ground smoked for days, weeks possibly, every now and then you would hear a loud crack as a spark shot out of a big old burning log or tree stump. I remember being 4 and devastated by seeing my swing and slide set a burnt, melted mess on the ground.
I remember the broken windows covered by blankets. Even with such disarray, amongst the ashes and smoke, my Dad was sleeping there to stop thieves. Due to the looting, our town was eventually cut off with entry monitored by police and only residents allowed in. A tent city was set up as many had lost their homes. Sadly, one truck of firefighters were lost as were some residents and many, many homes.
It was a horrible experience and something that I hope I never experience again.
My lovely, generous friend Melissa has set up an underwear drive for those affected by the recent fires in Tasmania. There are so many good causes out there, but this one really resonates with me. If you are looking for a way to help this might interest you. She is hoping to collect all the underwear by the 17th of January so that it can be sent on the 18th you can find out more about it here.