The fire that didn't arrive.
The sky was black, then yellow; the sun a strange coloured spot in the sky and bush fires were about 30 kilometres away. Warnings on the radio told us to prepare. We had to decide whether to “stay and defend” our home or to leave for safer ground.
We chose to stay.
All dry leaves and sticks were raked from the yard. Containers of water were placed around the perimeter of our house. Two heavy ‘beaters’ were made of strips cut from an old woollen rug fixed to short wooden poles. (These would be used – wet – to beat out any live embers that dared to land near us).
Valuables were gathered together in an overnight bag and placed by a door.
Disposable nappies were put ready to block downpipes for when the spouting was filled with water – a chore aimed for a bit closer to danger time.
We examined our house, caravan and sheds to see the best places to be, should the worst happen and the house start to burn.
We knew that it was radiant heat that could kill us rather than actual flames and that we needed a solid wall between us and the horrendous heat (should it come), so we chose the hand-built rock shed as our place of last resort.
We discussed the use of woollen blankets to cover us and the ability to lie on the damp paved floor of the shed, if (heaven forbid) we found ourselves having to shelter there.
The radio bulletin informed us that the danger would come when the wind changed - and that wind change was predicted to arrive very early the next morning. It was a sleepless night as we listened for any sign of a severe wind approaching.
The day dawned cool and grey. Even the smoke of the previous day had seemingly disappeared.
We breathed a sigh of relief and yet weren’t able to relax completely until later on in the day when we could see that the weather would not be hot and windy as we had expected. And, then, up in the hills, where the fire was still raging, raindrops began to fall.
But summer is far from over and we will not forget our plans.
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