The Bushfire

Bushfires have been blazing across NSW for days now, with firefighters working tirelessly to contain them. But it seems as soon as one blaze is brought under control, another flares up somewhere else. Wildlife and bushland have been decimated, homes and businesses destroyed and, in our local area, one life lost as a man fought to save his property from the flames. Who knows what the final toll will be?P1000809

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I have never experienced a bushfire first-hand before. I didn’t grow up with them. Like many though, I have seen pictures in the news and read articles in the paper; but I had not really thought twice about them afterwards. A big mistake, as this is bushfire country and it’s a very different story when one is burning on your doorstep. This is my account of our lakeside community’s narrow escape from disaster as a local bushfire raged through the bush and scrub engulfing everything in its path.

It all happened so quickly.

Thursday had been a fairly ordinary day; Icklegen and I had spent most of it close to home. As I was clearing up after tea, I commented to my partner that it looked like a sepia photograph outside: sky, water and trees all in varying shades of cream and brown, and slightly hazy around the edges. A while later, I noticed my mobile phone was flashing with new messages and casually picked it up to check them. And on the screen in huge letters appeared an EMERGENCY WARNING from the Rural Fire Service, advising me of a fire a couple of kilometres away and to “seek shelter as the fire arrives.”

Suddenly, our peaceful little world was turned upside-down. Heading outside, we found our neighbours gathered in a small group, watching vast clouds of smoke billowing in the near distance. Way too close for comfort. And with the smoke came a distinct bonfire smell, not too strong, but ominpresent. We were locked in by road: as the only access in and out to the highway was a fiery battlezone. There was discussion of potential evacuation, but the general consensus was to stay alert and wait for further updates.

Needless to say, it was a very unsettled night. The smoke grew thicker, and the smell grew stronger, over the hours that followed. When I woke in the very early hours of the morning, the sky was red with flames and the wind was gusting outside. It was terrifying and I don’t think I slept a wink until dawn; I was regularly checking the Internet for updates on the fire’s status in case we needed to take action, and popping in on Icklegen to see that she was sleeping safely.

The situation did appear to have calmed by morning, but in reality the fire was far from out. In fact, by the early afternoon it had escalated to such an extent that we were close to being evacuated, then the alert level was reduced again, and so it continued until news went out that the fire was finally under control and the access road to the highway open. We were no longer locked in, or locked out, by flames, but the world out there looks very different to how it did just last week.P1000813

{A touching gesture: a water container left out for local wildlife in the burnt-out bush}

The beautiful access road in from the highway is almost unrecognisable. The glorious array of green, gold and brown has been replaced by blackened stumps, brown crispy leaves and a thick layer of ash as far as the eye can see. The Big Prawn on the Pacific Highway is still lying atop his post, but the accompanying business venture is a tangled ruin. And this is just a small section of the 2879 hectares devastated by flames in our area.P1000814P1000817

Of course, the phoenix will once again arise from the ashes: the bush will regenerate, businesses and homes will be rebuilt and people who have lost everything will gradually piece together their lives. But the wound is still very fresh, the fires are still burning, and, in this country of extremes, who knows what may lie around the corner.

What is your experience of bushfires? Do you have any useful advice to share?

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2 thoughts on “The Bushfire

  1. Pingback: Catherine Hill Bay | icklegen

  2. Pingback: The Bushfire Legacy | icklegen

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