Living in a bushfire prone area brings with it a certain reality. Regular hazard reduction burns along with real and dangerous threats to the community when bushfires do get out of hand go hand in hand with Santa driving down the street in a fire truck on Christmas Day handing out lollies.
The day we moved in to our home back in 2002, we had no sooner unloaded the moving van than the local firefighters dropped by to let us know that we were being advised to evacuate due to an out of control bushfire. Welcome to the neighbourhood. The fires that day were to the west of us, and luckily for us the main road provides a clear barrier, one that firefighters defend tirelessly every time in order to protect all the homes that would be destroyed should a fire ever jump that road. If a fire were to ever come at us from the east, however, we’d be in major strife as all we have across the road is bush.
Friends and family have, over the years, had fires burn to their back gate or front lawn. There have been panic stricken evacuations, the brutal hours spent wondering if they’d have a home to return to. It’s the reality of living in this area, but another part of living in this area that makes me proud every time is the enormous sense of community and mateship.
I was shocked that first day in the neighbourhood in 2002 that not everyone madly loaded up their cars and got the hell out of town, I thought they were all a little crazy to think they would defend their homes with garden hoses. But over time I’ve seen the way it’s so much more than that. It’s whole streets banding together to do whatever it takes to assist the firies in defending every home. It’s using every available resource, from buckets to bins and yes garden hoses, to do whatever it takes to stop the flames before they touch anyone’s home.
Over five hundred fire fighters from all over Sydney were called to the bushfire emergency this past weekend. And along with them were residents of our community, volunteer fire fighters as well as concerned neighbours, all working together through endless hours all night and all day, fighting what seemed to be ever increasing spot fires in addition to the main blaze, which ultimately burned out over 4000 hectares before being contained and controlled.
Local businesses as well as residents eager to say thank you in a tangible way offered all manner of meals and I can’t imagine how many bottles of water. A local vet practice offered free boarding for any stray or misplaced animals. The messages of thanks on various Facebook pages numbers in the hundreds, due to the fact that over 700 homes were saved because of the NSW Rural Fire Service and all the many tireless volunteers. Also hugely helpful were the community alert pages that sprung up on Facebook and which offered up to the minute information as it was happening. The official NSW RFS website and app were also excellent in keeping everyone updated.
The photo above looks like it was taken almost directly above our house, facing west, with the fire heading south/south-west. The small pocket of houses directly in the path of the fires is a five minute walk from my house and shows how close the fires came. As I kept saying in all the messages I received, it’s all about the wind direction, and in this instance it was in our favour.
As a longtime resident of 2234 the words thank you just don’t seem like enough when I think of the many hours spent battling these fires and the danger our fire services put themselves in so that every home remains safe.
Like so many people commented, not all heroes wear capes, but this past weekend you can bet that they were all armed with hoses.
So to every single person who rallied for 2234 I say thank you.
And cheers mate.