Sunday, 13 January 2013

Four Years on - Remembering Black Saturday

This picture was taken by my husband and used by the local paper 

The fire season is well and truly upon us, and this is only at the beginning of it really. February can be the worst time of year for fires in our area but we should always be prepared. 

It is almost 4 years since that horrible day when many of us were affected by the Black Saturday Bushfires. Whether it was loosing a house, loosing loved ones or having to evacuate due to threat of the encroaching fire, we were somehow touched by this day. 

It feels like it was just yesterday I was evacuating my family from our home as we watched flames fly hundreds of metres in the air to catch fire onto nearby properties and literally creating a whirl wind of fire metres high in the air where it landed. 

This was a fire ignited by flying embers

That morning I knew there was a high fire danger warning and only a few days prior we had been watching from our window as a large fire burned in the nearby state forest. I had called the CFA when I had first noticed the plumes of smoke rising in the air and they reassured me it was being controlled. 

View of the fire from the front window

Being prepared meant for me packing bags and being ready to evacuate with my children as my husband had decided to remain behind and fight off any threat of fire. I knew I would be too worried about my children, to stay.  They are mostly young and it would be best for me to leave with them. 

Some items to have on the ready in case of evacuation

Bush Fire Protective Clothing

My husband would have buckets, containers and esky's of water stationed around the house, wet terry towels blocking drains, sprinklers on the roof, a hose on the ready - all dressed in his overalls and protective fire gear. 

The change of wind was so quick and it was fierce. My husband told me with desperation to get out as flames and smoke filled the air.  I whisked the kids into the car, some dropping shoes from their feet as we went. But right at that moment it became the most unimportant thing to me. I fled down the driveway and headed in the opposite direction to where I knew the flames and fire were heading.

I was soon shocked to see sight seers headed in the opposite direction trying to find a place to get that all important perfect photo. Some people really do have a death wish.

I drove to the local public hall which I assumed was the safe meeting area for a situation like this. I was shocked and disheartened to find no one was there. Right at that moment a friend messaged me to see if I was ok. I quickly rang her back and gave her an update and she offered for me to come to her house.

Communicating with my husband when the winds had died down, it seemed safe to return home. In the short time of  driving   just 10 minutes to get home a thick fog of smoke had descended  and we could not see further than 10 metres. This was even more scarier than earlier as there was no way we could see if any flames were nearby.

After sometime we decided it would be best for myself and the kids to stay somewhere else overnight. There was a strange glow in the sky that night, the sunset was like nothing we had ever seen before.

The next day I returned home and it was really eerie crossing the freeway which was bare except for seeing 1 fire truck zoom past. Normally it is busy with hundreds of cars, but the authorities had blocked entrance to our area and it would be another whole day before residence were allowed back to the area.

As I returned home black ash was seen scattered across the property and the house wreaked of smoke. I was overcome with a strange feeling of isolation in thinking about what had taken place. It was difficult to feel any kind of normalcy. 

This was probably the most scariest thing I have ever experienced. But in comparison to others on this day I was lucky that I didn't loose anything.

.......This would not be the last time I would evacuate as the bush fire would continue to burn for 5 more weeks.

Already this fire season has seen people suffering from wild fires burning out of control. Thanks to the super human efforts of the CFA so many peoples lives are saved. 

So quickly the images of Black Saturday appear in my mind when I hear it is going to be a day of severe fire danger. And on those days it is hard to sit still and not be on the lookout for any sign of smoke or flame. Living in a high fire danger area it is expected that we will most likely see fire here again so we have to remain aware and always be Fire Ready!

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