It is more than ten years later that I have found the notes I made during the 2007 bushfires at Briagolong. This is what I wrote:
Fire is glowing in the hills. One whole ridge is alight. The town has meetings, called by DSE and CFA. Everyone attends. We know what to do.
This is it:
FILL THE BATH, LAUNDRY TROUGH, WASHING MACHINE, SINK BUCKETS, BOWLS …EVERYTHING…. WITH WATER. 'PLUG' THE DOWN PIPES IN SPOUTING WITH DISPOSABLE NAPPIES AND FILL THE SPOUTING WITH WATER. PLACE WATER-FILLED (metal, if possible) BUCKETS, CONTAINING MOPS AT EACH OUTDOOR CORNER OF THE HOUSE. HAVE LARGE WATER PISTOLS FILLED & AT THE READY TO SQUIRT AT ANY EMBERS THAT MAY FALL. DRINK LOTS OF WATER AND MAKE SURE THERE IS CLEAN DRINKING WATER SAVED FOR 'AFTERWARDS'. BRING THE GARDEN HOSES INDOORS. (They will melt outside). BRING IN ANY DOORMATS. (They’ll catch fire if left out). CLOSE THE GAS BOTTLES OFF, WITH VALVES FACING AWAY FROM THE HOUSE. PUT AWAY SMALL (BARBECUE) GAS BOTTLE.
If it looks like fire is nearing and you have decided to stay….
HAVE TOWELS READY TO WET AND PUT AROUND OUTDOOR FACING DOORS. CLOSE ALL CURTAINS. CHECK IN CEILING MAN-HOLES. (Take water pistol, in case there are any embers). DON’T RUN OR PANIC.
We watch the fire in the hills and gauge if it is any closer. Everything here is getting dark, but the flames in the hills are getting brighter. We go to bed, but sleep 'with one ear open'. Will they sound a siren if the wind changes in the night? Will we hear it? Will our house smoke alarms be activated? 'We' (that is, Briagolong) features on the ABC TV 7:30 Report, which makes it seem more 'real' somehow and accentuates the danger in our minds. Friends from interstate see the TV reports and ring to see if we are OK. We have a 'day of rest' as the wind changes direction, and blows the fire and accompanying smoke away from us for a while. So we are brave enough to drive off for a quick shopping trip. Along the road are lighted signs requesting all car headlights to be turned on. It’s the middle of the day, but very dark. The night of 14th, (Wednesday), we wake at midnight as the smell of smoke is overpowering……inside. by 2:30 am, the house is filled with smoke. The smell is dreadful.
We can only see grey, when we look outside. Nothing but grey. It’s awful, but, at least the fire is not near enough for us to see from inside the house. We try to act positive and tell ourselves it’s just smoke from the back-burning that is being done to stop the fire from reaching us. In our living room, the smoke is so dense that I can hardly see Geoff through a smoke haze and he’s standing only about 4 metres away. Insideour living room! Not much sleep.
At about 9 am, we go outside to try and take a photo of the sun, which is almost the only thing we can see from our front door. It is a small bright pink ball, popping its glow out of a steely grey sky above the top of the gum trees. All the leaves on the trees are covered in a dreadful black smudge. We pretend all is well.
We walk down the street a little way and look towards the hills. The flames are still there, but don’t seem to have made much progress towards us. We check the level of water in the spouting and remove a few more objects from around the house. I try to work on the computer, but can’t concentrate. Inside the house is as dark as night. Lunch-time is as dark as 9 pm. We continue to watch the hills anxiously.
The wind changes and becomes stronger. Blackened leaves, ash and minute particles of soot fall from the sky like bizarre rain drops. Fire trucks with blue & red lights flashing drive along the road in front of our house. I try to write some notes, sitting outside in the gloomy, eerie light, but the page is soon covered in soot.
We survive; our house and township untouched. But 13 years later, Australia is is devastated by the worst fires ever.