Maroona Fires

IMG_0813  The view from the end of my street down Main St, Willaura  

What a great beginning to the 2015 New Year – bushfires abound across the state. The closest to us here in Willaura is about 15km away, but travelling in the opposite direction for now, unless the wind changes…
This isn’t my first bushfire. In fact, it’s the fourth I’ve experienced close proximity to. The first, in 2001, was just 2km from my then home in Markwood, Victoria. We were living on a cattle farm’s rental property. Wide open paddocks, but close to the house, surrounding it, were beautiful gum trees. Perhaps fortunately, the property was bordered on one side by a small creek. Embers and long strips of ash fell daily for three or four days, coating everything either white, black or a mix of the two. My Tic Tac orange car looked a sight. My children were then quite young, around ten and eleven. They thought at first, because we were near the skiing area up there, that snow was falling. Luckily, both for them and me, they were young enough to be more excited than scared by all the fuss. Still, I didn’t worry unduly. I’m just not the panicking sort.
The subsequent fires have all been around my current home, though none as humourous (in hindsight) as the one a few months after we moved here in 2005. For a rural home, this is the first we’ve had in a township. But possibly the scariest when it comes to ‘what if’ thoughts both during and after such an event. For months prior, I’d been heavily medicated due to health issues being diagnosed after many years of feeling less than 100%. So, on the day of the fire, I’d been in bed until around 5pm when I managed to drag my still groggy self up to feed the children and, the only reason I knew anything at all about the fire, to feed our dog. It was while I was out the back with her, looking about in dismay at the smoky haze covering our yard, that I heard in the distance the fire engine driving slowly through town, siren on intermittently as an announcer alerted that we needed to evacuate to…? “You want me to go where?” I muttered each time the voice sounded the alert. I raced to the front, yelling to the kids that they should have woken me, but missed the truck as it was now a street away. We threw what little we could into the car and decided to follow the line of cars and hope they knew where they were going. I was only slightly put out to find when we reached the evacuation point that a neighbour had been there for hours and hadn’t even thought to send me a text. But I’m over it now, honest (?), and mention it only now (ten years later) to show that you should think of others in perilous times else they’ll think less of you than… Okay, I’m still miffed 🙂
The third fire, in 2009, was further away – at least 30km from here in Moyston. I say this ‘tongue in cheek’ as you should always be prepared, know the risks and decide what you will do to keep loved ones (human and other) and yourself safe. A fire plan, no matter where you live, is crucial to survival. Perhaps I think to mention that now because that 2009 fire cost a man and his son their lives. They died in their car, fleeing too late. We were in no danger here; the only reason I think of that fire is the lives that were lost so close to home.
And now, yesterday and today so far, fire has returned to Moyston. But it’s also in Maroona, 16km from here. Family are worrying because they hear reports that Willaura North residents are receiving alerts to either Watch and Act or to evacuate now, depending on how ‘controlled’ the fire is at the time. Mind you, it was only their worry and my effort to allay their fears that made me finally search out a map that finally, ten years after I moved here, solved the mystery of where on earth Willaura North is; it is halfway between Moyston and Maroona, making it about 22km from here.  All I’d known previous is that it is not in the township of Willaura or directly nearby. I keep directing family to, telling them to type our postcode in so they won’t worry – the television news reports on the fires are at least an hour behind what the Country Fire Authority provide. In fact, the website automatically updates information every four minutes, and you can update more often if you wish. Trust me, even this ‘not prone to panicking’ self kept the site up and updated at least every 2 minutes – part of my bushfire plan.
I’ve also had in the car for years now our insurance paperwork, photos that can’t be replaced (although I have been meaning to scan them in to the computer so I have a backup) and other ‘important’ items. And today, with the risk being heightened by the unruly wind and predictions of it turning the fire South, our way, or possibly North instead (in other words, anything could happen), I have packed a bag with things I imagine I’d be sifting through fire remains for – my mother’s jewelry, the couple of pieces I’ve added to it since she passed three and a half years ago, sundry items that matter to me or my children. One small bag, in fact. I have a list (prepared long ago as part of my fire plan) of last minute things I need to grab on the way to the car: medicines, water, ice blocks, wet towels and so on. Not a lot because I need to save room for my three border collies. And the cat if I can find it, even though I’m just not a cat person and swear if the pest ever needs a vet again I won’t… Yeah, right. But the $485 trip to the vet for him to poop is a story for another day 🙂

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