Nuff Nuff

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Story - A True Story Part 1 - Black Saturday

Believe if you choose – or like many – choose not to believe – I don’t care either way

This story starts on Saturday the 7th February 2009 and is my personal log of the day and the days following the tragic event, now known as the Black Saturday Fires.

Let's start from the start – My family and I live near Whittlesea - we were prepared to come under attack from the fire which started in Kilmore due to fallen power lines. Thankfully it missed us – It was a very close call - maybe 1-2km away – thankfully a wind change took the fire away from us – between before than and certainly after, the fire consumed many buildings, lives and futures. Nobody knew how much worse the day could get. What started at approx 11am on the Saturday the 7th February 2009, still hasn’t finished even today, the day you read this.

My father, like myself had a sixth sense when it came to days of fire threats, he was calling me before the fire started in Kilmore to check that we were prepared. I was prepared as I could be without being called a loon. I was alert and watchful and not locking myself inside. I was listening to the news and watching the internet for signs of trouble. Dad had been calling ever hour or so from about 8am. All was okay, and then all of a sudden, things were not okay – we knew were in trouble, you just knew.

Hubby was away at work, I called him at 11.30am and told him to get home. The kids were packed with everything they wanted to take – the animals safe or for the larger animals prepared to be left. The pumps were primed and hoses laid out. Door mats removed and all that stuff you do for fire preparation. We were as prepared as could be without actually leaving the property.

Our street prepared, those that were leaving left, those that were staying stayed. The elderly were all assigned drivers and bullied into leaving. Many didn’t want to leave, but they were not given a choice. Those in ill health left early. Those that were older, but still able to prepare
properties were left to prepare properties and they would be taken with the children away from imminent danger if the need arose.

The neighbours talked and knew who was doing what. A man was posted on the hill behind us to watch for the fire and the information was fed down the residents.

We became aware at about 3pm that the fire was now being forced away from us by a change in the wind – we could see this – the radio and websites still didn’t have this information – but we could see this with our own eyes. Effectively we were saved, but we stayed on high alert until about 10pm, just in case there was another change in the wind.

We stopped watching our fire about 10pm, the stories coming from Kinglake were hair-raising to say the least. You couldn’t get into town, the media and stories bought tears to everyone who stopped and gave some time and listened, which was what people needed and few had the time to provide.

Once the fire headed off into the hills, I told mum and dad and told them to prepare. My gut just told me that the fire was going to hit town. I just knew it.

The power went out in Marysville at about 4.30pm and from that time onwards I was using the information I could glean from forums and news reports to feed mum and dad what little information I knew. At about 4.30pm a wind storm hit Marysville, which is what took the power out. That wind bought down trees and power lines and caused mayhem in town, Once the General Store shut – there was nowhere central to share information as is normally done.

I spoke to mum and dad every 30 minutes or so – they had a ceiling ladder that enabled them to access to roof space, dad was outside with the backpack and water. The house was being used a sort of refuge, with people from other properties taking shelter under inside the house, along with many animals that people left in the care of my parents. Basically a human and animal
zoo.

I rang at one stage and the smoke detectors were sounding and mum had to terminate the call because the fire was right there – she had to check the roof space and she couldn’t hear what I was saying. I knew the town was in trouble then, just not how much trouble. I am assuming it was about 6-6.30pm that this call was made.

The last call I made was at 7.57pm - I read to them from the CFA site the 8pm warning that everyone should evacuate to the oval - I knew that the fire front had passed about 6.30pm - but I was hearing in the news that the fire had doubled back

I also knew that they were the ONE house remaining (as reported in this mornings news) in the WHOLE Township - we are talking 100's of houses and businesses.

I kept trying to get through to them, but the landlines were gone at about 6pm and the mobiles were gone by 8pm – I went to bed at midnight - couldn’t sleep - was tossing and turning and listening to the radio - and by 2.30am I had made up my mind to get there come hell or high water - I packed fire fighting clothes, woollen blankets, 8 litres of water, leather gloves, sturdy shoes, a tank full of diesel and a whole lot of determination.

To be continued.....................................................

Will post follow up link and new blog post when ready - it's a long story - so you might need more than one coffee over numerous days :(

Take care out there and remember if in doubt GET OUT


Part 2

2 comments:

Cazzie!!! said...

What you write is exactly as I heard it all on 3AW on the way into work that very day. I was working in Emergency that day..that afternoon. I got into town at 12 Midday and I called my hubby, I said it was gunna be a long long afternoon and that the wind and heat was like nothing I had experienced in all my years growing up out on a farm between Werribee and Melton..back then in the 80s it was drought, and it was dry, but I do not recall the wind being as fierce as that day.. Black Saturday.
What came through to me on that day and into the night on the radio was such a mix of emotion, still too hard to decipher... people calling saying there was fire on their dorrstep and the announcer saying that there was no reports other than that very caller's, that there was fire even in that vacinity..how could a fire travel so damned fast? It did.
My hubbie's friend Michelle comes from Whittlesea. We were worried for her and her family. She got back to us after quite some time, she got the call to get down and open up that Shelter there, she runs the community centre in Whittlsea..I guess you would know her?

It ain't so (most of the time) said...

Cazzie - I may have met Michelle - Anything is possible - I live just out of town and don't often frequent town - as my work takes me in the other direction.
Like you said nothing I can recall in my life was ever that bad - You just knew the minute you woke up that something was going to happen - you just knew.
I can't believe that people weren't aware.
It makes me so angry and yet at the same time so sad - if that make sense.
I'm sure you've read the other parts, - there is more to come - it will stun you some of things that people have had to endure.
Both then and now :(