Monday, September 21, 2009

32 things. Number 20 - Help someone affected by the Black Saturday bushfires.

Serious Suzy hat on, sorry!

This is one of those posts I've had sitting in my drafts for a while, unsure whether or not to publish it. You see, I doubt I can do it justice. I know I don't have the words to capture the emotions, but I think I've now decided to bite the bullet and press publish!

Its 9 days until the official start of the bushfire season here in Vic. Nearly 8 months since our state suffered the worst natural disaster in history. Black Saturday.

I've wanted to write a post about Black Saturday since I started this blog. I just didn't know in what respect. Should it be my story, other peoples stories, facts and figures? The sadness, or the Happiness that prevailed? It would have to be my experience because I'm just not able to capture the raw emotion of the day and gt it from my head on to paper (or a computer screen!)

One of my 32 things is to help someone effected by the fires, I was discussing this with my friend Lou Lou on Saturday. She said to me "you can cross that off now, you've already helped someone, us!" So that's the road Ive decided to go down in regards to writing this....

Let me start by telling you about the day.

For about a week we had all heard the warnings that February 7th 2009 would be the worst bushfire day we have ever seen. They weren't wrong. I had plans to visit Ali in Bacchus Marsh, about an hour and a half's drive away, I was a little reluctant going that far from home with the imminent fire danger, we've had several bush fires in our street. So when I woke in the morning to find I had a flat tyre, I took it as a sign to stay home. Steve and I weren't talking, he decided to spend the day with Daveo and Lou Lou in Glenburn. I spent the day (which got to 46.5 degrees Celsius!) on the couch watching The Hills, with local ABC radio on in the back ground, walking outside every half hour or so to look at the sky, make sure no smoke was approaching.

Meanwhile my mum was freaking out, I swear she'd only be happy if I lived in a concrete jungle! She spent the day on the CFA website, ringing me when ever a fire was close by. I got news that friends of ours on the other side of town were fighting to keep their house from the flames which were engulfing Wandong. But she assured me that it looked like the threat had passed Mt Evelyn and I should go down to her house for tea. I drove out the road to find a tree had fallen, so I turned around and all I could see was smoke, the sky had turned a shade of grey/red/orange and there was an eerie feeling in the air, every where people were looking to the sky.

Next thing my sister was coming down the road, she stopped, screaming that the valley was on fire and she'd come to be with me, knowing I was on my own. We rang Ma and told her we wouldnt be down for tea, I turned on ABC radio to hear that Yarra Glen and Coldstream were on fire.

About this time Steve called to say he was on his way home. To drive home he would have to drive through both Coldstream and Yarra Glen. I let him know that I doubted I'd be seeing him tonight. About half an hour later he called to say that he had to turn around, the slide (Mount Slide) was on fire. He headed back to Daveo and Lou Lous. Daveo told him not to stress, there had been fires before and none ever got too close. Within half an hour the paddock next door was on fire and Steve, Dave and Lou Lou were using tea tree branches and wet mops to fight the fire. They stopped it within a foot of the house.

The initial front passed fairly quickly but destroyed sheds, cubby houses, fencing and gardens. The rest of the night and early into the morning were spent putting out spot fires. The next morning they drove to the Glenburn pub, through the blackened and still smouldering bush, past burnt down houses and houses that were untouched, past bewildered locals and busy firefighters, to find the pub a pile of bricks and ash. The service station remained closed - the owner had gone to Melbourne the day before and now couldn't get back. Steve and Daveo went back home only to spend the day fighting the fire as it came from them in the opposite direction.

Finally I spoke to Steve and they had no idea how wide spread the fire was, Marysville was devastated, same with Kinglake, Strathewen, Pheasant Creek, the list goes on.

It was another 2 days before I saw Steve again. Theres was just no travelling on the roads permitted, too risky, so when Steve finally bought Lou Lou and Daveo (and their 2 dogs) to our house, they were stuck there for the next 3 nights, the well being of their house unknown.

In the weeks following the fires, Daveo was very resilient, Lou Lous mental health took a battering. When she finally got back to work she got the news that the owners of their house had decided they would have been better off letting the house burn, with no second thought of the life times of Lou Lou and Daveos belongings stored inside. They could no longer afford to keep the house and Daveo and Lou Lou would have to move.

Lou Lou fell into a deep depression and as a result was retrenched from work. You can imagine how hard finding a new rental place is when you don't work and your competing against 100's of families also displaced by the fires. Their house didn't burn down, but they DID loose their house to the fires.

Lou Lou, Daveo and their 3 dogs now live in two "Dongas" in the temporary housing village in Flowerdale. It fantastic that they have a roof over their heads, but the dongas are not even the size of a basic hotel room! Its certainly not home!

The support they have received has not been great either, because they didn't loose their house, or thankfully, a person, they are not entitled to a great deal, despite the lost jobs, lost earnings, lost food (from when they had no power), lost way of life etc etc etc. They have had several case managers, most of which give them high hopes of grants "fill this out, you'll get this grant for sure, etc etc" only for another knock back, and another kick in the guts.

Finally last week they found a beautiful old farm house in Yea and will be moving there in about a month, things are looking up, Lou Lou will look for some work once they are settled in and hopefully life will go back to normal, whatever that is! Its been a very hard year and if any one deserves some normalcy its them.

Ahhh, a good old Jandy Ramble, this wouldn't be my blog if I didn't loose my point now would it! where was I? ahh yes, 32 things! As I said, Lou Lou was telling me how I had already in fact helped a person affected by Black Saturday. She told me that giving them a bed to sleep in for those three nights after the fire was something she could never thank us enough for. The fact that Steve helped save their house wasn't bad either! We also helped them move from the Glenburn house to Flowerdale, and we've been here for them simply as friends over probably the hardest year of their lives.

I don't know if I'll be cheating by crossing this off my list?? what do you think??? What I've decided to do for now is cross it off, but leave the opportunity to help someone else open.


  1. I think it's safe to say, you can cross this one off!

    Ryan will take you for a ride down the Warby trail too! He goes riding most weekends.

    And I would love to come do a sewing class with you, I'm sure I could teach you to sew too.

  2. thanks ali! tell Ryan I'll hold him to that.... if hes prepared to wait for my unfit bum every couple of minutes!! oh and the classes. they have them starting in october at spotlight for 8 weeks for $135, i'll find out the actual dates and let you know. (oh and they are for beginners to advance so should suit us both!)

  3. I agree! Cross it off bitch, cross it off! Another great blog Jands!


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