I was asked by the Victorian Government’s Department of Justice to write a blog post on bushfire safety. I am a city girl now, but bushfires have come close to my parents, so I’ve let them tell their story.
I grew up in country New South Wales – the summers are hot and dry. The scenery of my youth was gum trees, dirt roads and paddocks. Farmers burnt off in their paddocks. Smoke wafted from the incinerators at the local rubbish tip. I learnt a little about fire safety at primary school, but I never had to put the “stop drop and roll” lesson into practice. We were always safe. We had been very lucky with not having any bushfires nearby. Bushfires were always somewhere else, they never happened to us, but the smoke blackening the sky served a stern reminder to take precautions.
“It was a hot day with a wind and a sky that I’ve never seen since.
One of my work colleagues alerted me to the fire close to where I live.
I hopped in my car immediately & headed for home. First I had to encounter the northern suburbs of Albury where wind had strewn the road with debris. Traffic lights were out & there had been a car crash. Police were directing traffic but it was chaos.
I got through & raced out of town towards the fires. I was trying to phone my wife at the same time to let her know of the danger.
I kept to the speed limit but I had an impatient local behind me racing to take up his role in the local fire brigade.
Once home, I met my neighbour at his front gate. He was drinking a stubbie of VB with a mate of his & it wasn’t long before I was joining them.
We watched the plumes of smoke & the planes that were backwards & forwards with loads of water to drop on the fires as we listened to the CB radio.
Our discussion was about whether we should go or stay & what if we were over 0.05.
We stayed. The emergency message came up on our phones to evacuate but at the moment the rain began to fall. We stayed.
Reflecting on the situation, we didn’t know how close the fire was or whether we could get down the road to escape. We had an artificial feeling of safety where it could never happen to us.
Our dogs were our prime concern but all was well.
The fire scene was cordoned off & it was only several days later that we realised how lucky we had been.”
“The day started with very hot and strong winds. I went to work as normal and as the day progressed the winds got worse. At about 1.30 my daughter Carly rang me to alert me to the fires burning in Walla Walla and Gerogery. I told her I would confirm this with one of my neighbours, but then Roger rang and told me he was home and I should get home immediately.
Driving home was the longest trip which normally would take about 25 – 30 minutes seemed like hours. The sky was a brown eerie looking trees were down and part of the major highway was closed due to debris on the road. Listening to the radio it was said that roads to Gerogery/Walla Walla were being closed. I put my foot down and thought of what I was going to say, why I should be at home etc. The thought of the dogs being on their own and trapped came to mind.
I can’t describe how I felt…..scared and worried. The smoke by now was getting thicker and it reminded me of the fog we normally have in winter. I needed to concentrate on getting home. My main concern was Roger, the dogs and our sheep. I finally got home and left my car at the top of the driveway just in case. Roger and his car was parked at the dog run. Looking down from the dog run we could see thick smoke and flames….about 2km from our property. We listened to the police on the UHF radio and we found we were not in immediate danger, although if the wind changed direction, it could be a different story.
By this time my neighbour was out too, hosing down his house and he was waiting for his wife to get home.
I came into the house, went through the motions of collecting things to put in the car…..bottles of water for the dogs, change of clothing for us, laptops and mobile phone… I did however feel like I was in another world, I can’t say I panicked but the feeling was very eerie……
For about three hours we were watching the wind and flames feeling useless, should we stay or leave and the rains came and it poured……relief. By this time we received a message telling us to evacuate and meet at the nearest petrol station. We felt we were safe then.
We watched the news that night and realised how ferocious the fires were and how many houses were lost. How nobody died was a miracle.”
- FireReady App
- Emergency broadcasters: ABC Local Radio, commercial radio and designated community radio stations
- SKY NEWS television
- Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667
- CFA social media such as Facebook and Twitter: @CFA_Updates
- You may also receive an alert sent to your landline or mobile phone based on its billing address or location (for Telstra customers only) through the Emergency Alert System.