Friday, February 13, 2009

Victoria's Bushfires

No doubt everyone has heard of the devastating bushfires here in Victoria. I cannot believe that it has happened, and it probably wont ever actually sink in.

Last Saturday was forecast to be a scorcher of a day. Gale force winds and the heat made it extremely uncomfortable to be outside; and a day where fire risk was at an all time extreme high. I remember hearing about fires that had started and was concerned, but never in a million years did I think it would elevate to the devastation that evolved.

Our town & house here came under ember attack in the afternoon. I did not know what it was I should've been doing. I did laps around the house holding Stevie & looking out the windows while Jim was out in one of the farm utes patrolling the property incase any grass fires started. He put out one small one at the front of our house. He sent me a message to go down to the packing shed at his work to hide out with the dogs and Stevie.

This is a picture of the smoke coming from the Bunyip Ridge fire in Gippsland which was over the back of our property.

So I rushed around the house grabbing photos and the dogs and Stevie, and got into the car to drive down to the packing shed. I was quite frightened. And it was awful doing it all by myself. Outside was really windy and there was ash and embers flying through the air and getting in my eyes and the sun through the smoke was casting an eerie orange light onto everything.

Notice how I waited for Jim to tell me what to do? I just could not think straight and did not know what to do. Stevie was grumpy and crying and needed a feed and that on top of feelings of panic and confusion made it difficult to get organised.

The embers stopped flying over when we were in the packing shed, when the wind changed, and that night the wind dropped dramatically and we had a cool change which was desperately needed.

This is a piece of burnt bark that was found on our property afterwards. There's little bits of charcoal and black leaves around, but this was the biggest bit we found.

But what I went through was a walk in the park compared to so many others that have lost their homes and family. It is so devastating and I cannot believe how many people have died trying to escape the flames. I cannot stop thinking of their poor family members that have been left behind to grieve. The animals that have suffered. The babies and kids that were caught up in it. The feelings of terror that people must have felt. The wildlife.

One of the hardest hit areas was near where I grew up, making this tragedy a little too close to home for my liking. I can't believe areas that have been local to me are now making world news headlines. These towns are part of Australia's biggest natural disaster in recorded history.

One of my best friends lives out in Kinglake, which was one of the areas hardest hit by the fires. I am so thankful she and her husband and baby made it out and it is a big reminder to me of what the important things in life are... and they are not things, they are people.

I didn't know whether to write about my own personal story here as I don't want any feelings of sympathy at all... compared to what other people have gone through and are going through I feel kind of weird writing about my experience. Maybe also it has something to do with the fact that the whole situation is so terrible that I just want to forget about it all. Or that my experience is just not even comparable to what others have gone through.

Donations can be made to The Victorian bushfire appeal 2009 through The Red Cross. The 2009 Victorian bushfire Fund will assist individuals and communities affected by the bushfires in Victoria.


outi-in-the-sky said...

How wonderful to read, that you and your familiy are ok. i´m from germany and the bushfires in australia were in the tv-news every day. though i don´t know you personally,only your blog ,i was really concerned.

Shannon Melville said...

HI Julie,
I am glad to hear that you and your family are safe. I looked on your blog the other night and saw your red back spider post (very cool) and then i remembered that you were in country Victoria and I hadn't seen you write a post since the bushfires. I am glad you wrote this post. I am sorry to hear how frightening it was for you all. Even though you were very fortunate, it is still very worrying and it is hard not to stop thinking of all the destruction and the people and animal's lives lost. I wrote a bit about it on my blog today too. I think being visual people when we hear the stories it is hard not to block out pictures in our minds of how it all happened.

Hopefully there will never be a big one like this again and people will feel more prepared about what to do in case of a fire. Glad your best friend and family is safe too. Take care.

kirsten said...

this is exactly the place to share your personal story and it needs to be told. in my humble opinion!
it helps people not remotely connected to understand how it impacts on everyone. we are all connected to people directly affected by the fire and helps to make it so very personal (as it is!).
thank you for sharing. it must have been scary with stevie.
my heart breaks over and over for all those children and mums and dads. seriously sad.
stay safe.

Anna said...

Julie, I am so relieved to see your post! I thought something bad may have happened as you had not posted for a while. I have family in Vic (Bendigo way) so am keeping tabs on the fires- it is really scary to think things like this could happen! Heartbreaking.

take care, Anna

Anna Lloyd said...

So happy to hear that you and your family are alright! It's a horrible thing to go through.

Smudges and Blips said...

I agree with Kirsten. I can't say that watching it on the news has given me such a humble look at the event as reading your blog. I am glad to hear your family is safe and sound and know that I will be praying with you for all the families affected by this.

Kirsty said...

So glad to see this post!! It is incredibly scarey to be that close. We live in country SA and have had fires close to us and the panick really is debilitating!!!
Nothing of course to that scale!!
SA has passed a law to allow known fire offenders to be secretly monitored on those terrible hot days. I believe it has made a difference here. But the bloody do gooders who say "that is against the privacy act!!" have stopped that happening in NSW and VIC. I think once they are a known offender they give up those rights!!!

Shannon said...

Im glad to see this post also, I was thinking of you & your little family.