A Bushfire story
When I was fifteen my family moved to Winmalee. That summer there was a bushfire. We saw it on the news every day and watched it getting closer to our home. We cleaned out the gutters and hosed the roof of the house, and had lots of buckets of water ready. My uncle was staying with us and promised us kids a dollar for every spot fire we put out. We watched on TV as the fire ripped through Hawkesbury Heights and took down about ten houses. It burned down a nursery at Yellow Rock very close by and sent a big explosion into the sky. At the last minute the wind changed direction and the danger was gone. That time people knew the fire was coming and had time to prepare their houses, pack their cars full of important belongings and keep an eye on the situation. That time there was an army of fire fighters on hand, helicopters dropping water and regular news broadcasts on where the fire was right now. It was a bit different this time around. Mid October nobody expects to see bushfires, but the weather was hot and windy and they happened anyway.
My Mum was ironing and looked out the window to see a big tree on fire in her front yard. There was no warning at all apart from smoke in the area. She rang 000 and they said they would be there as soon as they could but it was a full two hours before they actually got there. We found out later that this was because all of the local fire fighting resources had already been deployed to another enormous fire on the other side of the Blue Mountains. Also there were local schools and preschools in danger of burning down with kids still in them waiting to be evacuated.
My parents stayed to defend their house. My dad put out fires in the gutter on the roof with his garden hose while my Mum ran out in bare feet and put out spot fires with buckets of water. She has burns on the soles of her feet from the hot burning ground. On one side their neighbour’s house was on fire with flames shooting through the roof “30 feet high” as my Dad said, on the other side a neighbour’s two cars and a big gum tree in in his front yard were burning. The garden of the house across the road and the house behind it were on fire. By the time Dad got an SMS safety warning that a fire was nearby they’d been putting out spot fires in their front yard for hours, and many of the houses in their street were burning. Cars and gas tanks were exploding. It sounds like mayhem, and given the complete lack of warning and the intensity of the fire it’s a miracle nobody was killed.
My parents left when the fire truck arrived, and thankfully they still have a house. Their chook shed and pergola is burned, and the fences are badly scorched, but compared to the houses around them their place looks like an oasis in a desert. The next door neighbour who’s cars were on fire still has a house, but the three houses after that are destroyed. Around half of the properties in their street burned down that day – that’s approximately 50 homes. I watched spellbound as the Today show broadcasted live from their street for several days in a row, and then yesterday I watched as the Crown Prince Frederick and Princess Mary toured the street (the street I used to live in!).
My kids seemed to take it all in hand really well. They saw their Gran’s street on the news, and then they saw it in person a few days later. I tried to explain to my five year old that it was very sad that some people have lost everything they own but it’s a bit much for a five year old to comprehend. When I explained that some kids would have lost all of the toys they own that made much more sense to her and she said “That’s very sad Mummy. What if I give them some of the toys I don’t play with any more?” Of course, I said that would be a wonderful idea and when we got home she went and found a stuffed fairy to donate to the bushfire relief. I felt very proud of her! As most parents know it’s almost impossible to get kids to part with any toy at all, even ones they’ve not played with for a year or more. Usually the passing down of toys to new owners needs to be done in stealth whist they are at pre-school with hopes they won’t notice later on.
The losing of the toys explanation must have really struck home to my kids because later in the week we evacuated the area ourselves with out of control fires and more hot, windy weather coming. All the schools in the Blue Mountains were closed, all hospitals and nursing homes evacuated, and the recommendation was to leave early or be prepared. I didn’t want to be present to witness a bush fire apocalypse in our street, so we cleared out. For the first time ever, the kids strapped themselves up and were in the car and waiting with the bags they’d packed themselves ten minutes before we left. They didn’t want to stick around either. I think what they packed (only the most important things) is adorable and just HAD to take a picture…
You will Need
• Red, white and black paint
• PVA (school) Glue
• 2 Bamboo Skewers
• 1 Toilet roll, cut in half
• 2 Shoelaces
• 4 plastic milk bottle caps and 2 beer bottle caps
• Scissors, brushes, and a metal skewer for piercing holes in the wheels