A Very Long Update

I’ve neglected my blog, yet again. But wait! This time my reasons are valid. Nope, not laziness, not writers block… none of that. Life has been upside down for me recently. Let me tell you why. A fire tore through my tiny town on October 17, a date I’ll never forget. 202 homes were destroyed with many more damaged. With less than 70 houses on my street, about 10 were destroyed. We must have angels looking out for us because our house is still standing, despite our yard, fences, and back shed being destroyed. The house behind us was lost, with 6 across the road gone and a further 3 on the other side gone.

It was down to luck, to chance… and the hard work of 2 male neighbours who stayed in the fire to save our houses. The other 5 streets in my town were all hit too, with people I know personally losing everything, including their home, cars, possessions and even their horses. It’s been a really devastating event. 

Unfortunately O and I were home when the fires hit. And it wasn’t your typical fire where you have 3 days to prepare and evacuate, with the fire fighters on the ground and in the air combating it. It was a freak fire storm, sparked by fallen power lines some 10 km/s away. It was 33C and winds were about 70km/h. I saw the smoke coming up where the fire started and within 30 minutes it was on my street. Where I live has only one road in and out, and is surrounded by gullys and ridges of thick bushland. That one road was engulfed in flames, so our exit was blocked. I started by sheltering in a house with a bunch of neighbours (and even non-locals), where we filled up bath tubs and got ready for the fire. We lost power and water and the bath wasn’t even half full by the time we decided to drive to the lookout, the furtherst north point in town. A month or so ago a fire had come from that direction, and we evacuted with about 3 hours notice. Itr never reached the houses  or main part of my tiny town, and the fire fighters decided to do a bit of a backburn. And thank god they did as it was now our safe zone, being previously burnt. 
It’s a tiny cliff edge, with a table and bench seat, on dirt and rock. 52 of us were down there, and a helicopter circled above us as the fire got closer and closer. We saw thick black clouds and plumes of smoke and heard a lot of explosions (we have a mushroom farm and a big garden nursery down here). We never once heard sirens – of course with the road blocked it meant no one could get in to save us or our houses. 
A fire truck did make it through, driving through smoke and flames. It was the only truck, with 4 men inside, to make it down for 2.5 hours. The moved 52 of us to a nearby acreage property that was fairly cleared. A friend and her baby and O and myself sat in that fire truck for over an hour before we went into the house with everyone else. We had to wet towels and put them on our faces and over our babies… which was impossible with O! The smoke was thick and burning my nose, eyes and throat. Flames were all around the house, with only 4 men outside saving the house (and us inside). 
It was over 5 hours until I was able to take O and myself to the arms of my husband and safety. It was the longest evening of my life. It started at 2pm and ended after 8pm. It was the scariest moment I have ever been through and I have never been more fearful for our lives as I was then. We are extremely lucky and blessed to not only have a home to go to but to even have our precious lives. 
The fire moved so quickly. It really was a freak fire storm. The bush had at least 10 years of growth since the last fire, plenty of fuel…
It threw me off for quite a while after. We stayed with my parents as we couldn’t return home without power, water or gas. Having help with O was wonderful because I’ve felt quite traumatized by what we went through that day. I’m slowly processing it all and feeling so grateful to have my family and home still.
In true Gen Y fashion I managed to take a few photos during the ordeal.
My token “panic” shot as I ran from my house.

The smoke was horribly thick.

Sitting in the fire truck, I see the fire race up the gully behind our “safe house”.

There were a couple other fires happening at the same time in my region and one was on Mum and Dad’s street, while we were staying there. It was a doozy and it was very lucky the wind was pushing it the other direction because it’s been 20 years since the bush in their valley has been alight. I was home alone with O again and had to pack the car in case of evacuating. 

Fire at my parent’s house.

There were 6 of these working on the fire at my parent’s.

What else has been happening? A few weeks ago we knocked down our beast of a water tank. Words to describe this eyesore are “massive” “concrete” and “ugly”. It took half a day and the base is still yet to be jack-hammered up. My clothes line will go where this once stood, and we will be re-turfing the yard, and taking the path up too. Eventually, we hope to do an extension on the back half of the house so I’ll have to relocate the clothes line yet again, but for now it’s given the backyard more space both physically and to the eye. We also scored a free trampoline from our neighbours next door. O is only 13 months but she squeals with delight on it, bouncing and flopping everywhere.
O and I, before the might tank was demolished.
The view from O’s room is actually a “view” now.

My garden is going great guns. I’ve been harvesting lots of spinach and lettuce. My strawberries have turned red within one day, it’s all pretty exciting. I feel really old that gardening gives me such pride and excitement  But there’s nothing like eating something that you picked from your own veggie patch! I think the ash has done wonders for the veggies actually.

O is growing up quick. As soon as she turned one, she started doing 100 new things a day. Well so it seems. Still not saying many words. I think she prefers to squeal and scream. It doesn’t help that I do it back to her. She has started giving her dolly and teddys drinks and food, and walks around with a toy phone to her ear saying “EH!” and “DA!” Of course I have to hold one to my ear too and god forbid if I put it down. She is hilarious. She makes me laugh every day! She also makes me pull my hair out but that’s okay

Three of my favourite things – yoga, reading and O.

2 thoughts on “A Very Long Update

  1. Jackie, are you on bloglovin? I like to subscribe there so it's all in one place??? (rather than every individual via email)???
    I'm sorry to hear you were caught up in these fires. My sister is i theBlue Mountains (i'm assuming thats where u r too), i also have cousins in Winmalee and Faulkenbridge. The one in Winmalee lost both neighbours houses. Pot luck it seems like.
    I can't even imagine how nervous you were, your guardian angels were working over time.
    Liv x

  2. I'm trying to figure out bloglovin, I'm new to it! I *think* I'm on there? Gosh, sorry!
    Oh wow, I grew up in Winmalee and now live in Yellow Rock. Your cousin is so very lucky. We are much the same… houses all around us gone yet we only lose the shed… pure luck! I kind of feel bad! Small word, it seems x

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