Sunday, 19 February 2017

Dodging a bullet (mainly)

I haven't posted for a couple of days as we have been preoccupied with a huge bush fire and its impact on us.  Cutting to the chase we're all (me, Frances and Tammy) OK, and the house is OK, but all our sheds are gone and the property is basically a black moonscape.

I will add some photos and more commentary to this later, but here is the timeline.

Last Friday 17 February at 1215 Frances had gone to her gym class and I was doing stuff at home when my mobile phone rang.  My friend from the Hoskinstown Plain said "There is a lot of smoke rising behind the hills behind you place.  Check it out."

I did so and saw saw a huge column of smoke.  I rang the Queanbeyan RFS who said they were on to it and suggested it was time for my Bushfire Survival Plan.  I said that was "Run for it." and she agreed this was a good option.  I rang our next door neighbours and suggested they also got out.  (They did - thank God - see below)

So I put binoculars telescope and passports in my car with Tammy and headed off.  I decided I didn't want to spend 10 minutes hooking up the camper as I wanted to get to Frances gym before she started to come home.

As I got to the end of the drive I remembered Frances' iPad and the birth certificates etc.  Looking back at the hills the smoke was now a black mass pouring down the face of the hills.  Should I go back?  Bugger that, pedal to the metal.

I made it into town and Frances'car was where I expected so I got into the gym where she was Pilaticising and explained what I was doing there.

Rang daughter in case she saw about this on the news and decided to go to her place and wait for developments.  From her place at  about 1330 - ie about an hour after I was alerted, which I have only just realised -  we could see the Eastern side of the hills which were totally black.  Helicopters etc were zooming around.

Not really possible to stay with her so rang friends who immediately agreed to host us and Tammy so we headed off there.  Via the chemist as I had also forgotten to bring our regular medications.  By the time we got to therir place Facebook was rife with discussion and questions from Friends, which our host was fielding as well as he could.  Many many thanks for this Rob.

The rest of that day was trying to work out where the fireground was in relation to our house. By about 9pm it seemed the house was right in the middle.  So f*ck it, can't do anything now and go to bed.  Neither sleeping nor, perchance, dreaming really happened for me.

Next morning (18 Feb) rang the RFS about 0630 and the duty dude had just come on and wasn't yet up to speed (fair enough - he didn't tell me to sod off, which would have been a temptation if our positions had been reversed) and suggested I ring back about 10.

I rang a little before that and got some positive vibrations about our area.  So we headed out and got to a road block at Widgiewa.  There a bunch of residents were briefed very professionally by the Incident Controller from the RFS.  (As an aside, this was filmed by ABC TV and others and my red t-shirt really stood out.)  Basic story was hot wires and falling trees all over the place so go away for a while.  Again fair enough.

Assuming we'd lost everything we went to buy socks and jocks.  (I hadn't included them - or rather I had included them in the list of things I'd overlooked.)

Somewhere in this process someone told me to go and register at Queanbeyan Police Station which I did.  The nice cop said the best info was at The Q Theatre which was the central point.  They said the road was open so out we went again and after showing our drivers license we were allowed ito the disaster area. After about 400m just black on both sides of the road.

I parked at the end of the road and walked down, passing some RFS guys busy dropping a burnt tree and there was our house.  All of it.  Sheds burnt out and lots of other things gone but we're OK and the house is 99.5% OK.

More detail to come.  The only house in Whiskers Creek Rd I know to have gone was our lovely next door neighbours.  They must have taken my advice as they are physically OK.

(Much) More to come.


Mary Chamie said...

Hello Martin, What a shock this must be! So sorry for what happened. We are glad you are safe and that no one from your family was injured. The photos of the short distance between the burn and your home are startling. Do you have any idea what saved your house? It is remarkable to see the house in good order next to those burn marks. Glad that your local government and community is responding well to your needs. We wish you well. Mary

Flabmeister said...

G'day Mary

I have no idea what saved the house, but suspect we were water-bombed by a helicopter with a bucket followed up by a ground crew to stop a couple of ember attacks. The astonishing bit is that the potting shed in one of the photos is 2m from the deck. Incredibly lucky.