The Fires

This is probably the worst natural disaster that we have ever experienced ( unless you count Covid19)

I have saved various articles that I think will give you some idea. We are still recovering 13.4.2020

Photo courtesy Shanna Mc Mahon

Looking towards Howe Range.

I have been through three major bushfires in Mallacoota and the last one was by far the most intense.
When I was under 5 ( around 1950) there was a bad one that forced us to leave our property in Brady Street and flee to the lake edge. This is with 32 cats randomly stuffed in sugar sacks (and fighting each other as a consequence), various bedding (including tents ) and my ailing father who would have been about 80 odd then.
I do not remember being afraid and the people around me were calm and organized.
My brother Hugh and the other men fought the approaching blaze with wet bags.
I recall my sister in law, who was very religious praying for our safety.
The fires stopped at our back fence.
The cats (numbers caused by Mum’s reluctance to kill the newborn kittens) were set free, only to “go bush” for about a week(Cat flu solved the overpopulation issue the following year.)

I saw many dead animals caught up in our barbed wire back fence.
The second major one I went through was whilst married and living on ‘the hill” (Karbeethong) with Peter Kurz.
The smoke was terrible. Communication was very patchy. We were the owners of a large group of holiday flats, which were booked out. There was a considerable amount of panic due to the lack of information. The road into Mallacoota became blocked by fallen trees and fire fairly early on in the incident, so everyone was “trapped”. Some people did not react well to this. I did not sleep for what seemed like days. We had communal meals and tried to calm people down. I can remember sitting on the roof deck of the house and watching a fireball jump the narrows and quickly light up the park. By the morning it had reached Howe Flat.
This fire led to the formation of the radio station first located in a double-decker bus, which unfortunately was a victim of the latest conflagration.
The sound of the approaching fires was like a train, or distant but increasing heavy traffic.
It became very dark, with cinders and ash falling.
The fires of 2019 were much more intense, unpredictable and devastating. The feeling was surreal. The light left totally and it was black as night. Then came the roaring. No power, no phones. Fantastic fire crews and police and support from so many areas I couldn’t name them all.
It is now April 2020 and I am just beginning to recover. Naked flames still upset me and I can’t sleep. Our community has joined together to help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. Everyone has done something positive, this is a wonderful place to live.
We are now faced with “a fire that won’t go away” where we have to be wary of each other as well as enduring conditions not so unlike the disaster we are still recovering from. Perhaps we are more prepared to cope with power outages and trying to clear fire damage and collect what is left of our infrastructure as a consequence?One thing is sure, we will not return to the world we once knew. Perhaps we will be mentally annealed. More mindful of our fellow humans? More aware of what a delicate and irreplaceable environment we live in?I know we will. It’s Mallacoota.

Photo Shanna McMahon
Photo Sue Hines
Photo Sue Hines
Unknown photographer
Shanna McMahon
Leah Morrison

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