Unless you have experienced a bush fire you really cannot understand or imagine the seriousness of the fires. The fires move in a relentless wall of flame devouring everything in their way. The fire is hot, usually fanned by winds and unstoppable in the hot dry conditions of high temperature Australia in Summer.
Currently Victoria, WA, NSW, Qld and Tasmania, all of Australia, are experiencing extensive bushfires and acres of land and property are being destroyed and many are losing their homes and their livelihood.
I was teaching in Lakes Entrance Victoria during the 1964 Bush Fires and the school was evacuated and as a teacher I was sent to help with the firefighting. Women were sent to prepare food and I spent the week making sandwiches and helping the firefighters as they came in and out of the safe area. It was very scary watching the smoke and seeing the damage happening all around.
My next experience was the Ash Wednesday Fires that were raging all over the north of Victoria. I was cooking at Windsor at a Horse Stud and Horse School, also the location for the filming of Home and Away‘s Caravan Park. The fires did not reach us, but they were just over the river and the sky was black and huge grey and black smoke brought sparks and debris over to the property. I was hanging out washing watching the black dust settle everywhere and getting hit by fiery sparks.
I saw the Dandenong Ranges in Fire and the after all black and charred, homes destroyed and animals and bird-life and wildlife killed and gone.
My friend lived at the Dandenong Ranges, and we drove to see the after effects for weeks after watching the dead trees and undergrowth, and then watching the trees start to grow again, with green clumps of new growth, and the seeds growing and starting life again.
I next had a Property at Somers in Victoria. Here I went to join the Volunteer Firemen, and during our first training session watched a fireman start a fire that them got out of control and burnt a huge area of Western Port bay. Fire engines came from all around and it was indeed a realistic training. Fortunately this fire was in the bush and I cannot remember homes being destroyed, just acres of beautiful bushland.
In the 90’s I was to lose all my belongings in a House-fire…and personally experienced the losing of everything one owns, and being destitute. I sat outside my home in Elwood and watched the whole house become a firework display with electricals bursting out and flaring outwards. After the fire, the firemen let me go inside, and my Moore and Moor Baby Grand Piano was iced with melted plastic from the Stereo speakers sitting on the top, and everything was black. I stood there crying when the fireman picked up an untouched photo of me lying on the floor and said, ” You may have lost everything but someone is looking after you.”
My daughter moved in with a friend, but I had no where to go, and rented a property from a friend of hers for an exorbitant rental of $580 a week. I had no choice or thought I didn’t. I know the devastation of losing everything…clothes, books and photos, documents, and all my musical instruments and extensive library and Research Papers. Years of research all gone in a few moments. We collected blackened pots and some household goods, and they were placed outside to be collected. When the collector went there, someone had stolen the lot. Yes, I remember the loss of everything I ever owned and the starting again. Fires have dreadful sense of ending. You just lose everything in a fire and are forced to start again.
Last Year when I was cooking at Lawn Hill Cattle Station, there were a few fires that were started by lightning, and the Staff at the Cattle Station and from the Lawn Hill National Parks spent 2 days in the bush building cutbacks to stop the fires spreading. At night you could see the line of fire in the horizon. This area was all bush and the casualties were the wild life that lived in the trees and the bushland.
This week a large proportion of Australia is covered by bushfires, and many volunteers are working hard to put out the fires and support those affected by the fires. A large part of Central Australia is bushland and every summer when the temperatures rise and the bush is dried out and flammable, fires start and just keep moving destroying everything in its path.