Home     Display     HandyHints

OUR Bushfire Emergency

My apologies if there are mistakes in this – it was done in a rush for obvious reasons.

Handing out advice to others is all well and good, as long as you take it yourself. We covered this in the Focus 16 article, In Case of Emergency, making suggestions on how best to prepare before disaster strikes. I urge everyone to read it because what has just happened to us can happen to anyone...

Like most, we never expected we'd have to put our emergency plan into action; however, just as a precaution we made sure it was already in place. The grab-and-go bags containing important documents, computer backups and those items necessary for basic survival were packed and ready. It was as well they were because we were ordered to evacuate our home town with little more than sufficient time to load up the cars and leave. That was three days ago, or it may have been four: it's hard to remember under the present circumstances.

Messages received from concerned friends and relatives overseas confirm that the rest of the world is aware of our plight brought about by a terrible bushfire in the South West of Western Australia. They say it is one of the worst in the State's history. All we know is that, like hundreds of others, we won't be allowed to return home until authorities give the all clear. So we wait, listening to frequent radio updates that tell us pretty much the same as they did fifteen minutes before. That sounds like poor public service, but it isn't - everyone is confused, and with the fire raging out of control around a perimeter of over 200 kilometres and expanding every minute, information could never be comprehensive or up-to-date. Although we all understand this, we are still worried for the safety of our town and that we may not have a home to return to. That's not melodrama - it's plain fact. Our concern is based on reports that the small township of Yarloop a mere 20 Kms North of us has been virtually wiped out in a matter of minutes. Learning later that the fire front was reportedly heading South from there at alarming speed, it is now clear that those in charge evacuated us only just in time.

Now that we are miles away from the front, having been taken in by our next-door neighbour's daughter, there is time to reflect. In retrospect, the past few days seem like weeks, and memories of them skip from one moment of crisis to the next. The best I can do is document what I recall...

Thursday, 7th January 2016

The fire had apparently started somewhere North of us the previous day at 7.25 am. Next morning, smoke could be seen rising in the distance, quite a common sight throughout an Australian Summer. We thought: considering conditions and temperatures, it was bound to happen; good job it isn't closer. The chatter of a helicopter's rotors was approaching and we went out to look, imagining it to be the rescue chopper coming in to land at the nearby hospital, probably to pick up or drop off a patient. It turned out to be what we know as a helitack, one of those aircraft that suck up water from a dam or similar and drop the load on a fire. It headed North into a pall of smoke that had intensified, obliterating the sky and the landscape beyond the town.


I know we should have had the radio on, but we rarely use it, not since settling in a town which we thought would be pretty safe from any disaster. So we failed to hear the bushfire alerts that were already being broadcast. It wasn't until our son drove in around midday that we realised how dire the situation had become. He was surprised we were in ignorance, saying: "Haven't you heard? We've got to get out!"

Grab 'n' Go was the immediate thought and the essential bags were in the car within a minute. Another check of the sky and I figured there was still time to pile in spare clothes, some food, extra water and whatever else we could think of that might be needed. "What about your guitar?" my wife asked, "You've had it since forever." I think my reply shocked her: "I can always buy another guitar. Leave it." I eventually conceded and tossed it on the back seat of the car. In hindsight, I'm glad I did: it helped more than just us to get through the worrying days to come.

helitack refuelling

Mid-afternoon the helitacks had begun re-fuelling on the football oval at the end of our street, one after another. It really was getting bad. Maybe we ought to go. Our next-door neighbour had decided to, but was worried for her husband who insisted on staying. We reassured her leaving was the best thing she could do; and our grand daughter added: "Don't worry about him. When it's time, I'll drag him out if I have to."

See next page

Click this Click for PDF file image to view or print complete article.

  Back to beginning of article

Home     Display     Money    Health     Focus     HandyHints     Popcorn     Recipes     eBooks     About     Contact

copyright © 2016  All Rights Reserved