The summer of 2019-2020 will never be forgotten by those of us who lived through it. It seemed as though the entire country was on fire. Each day brought fresh challenges, some of which felt very real even for those of us who escaped being touched directly. Our home remains standing as it did before, with only a few ember scars to tell the tale. The scars on our psyche from weeks of living in a smoke pall with raging fires nearby are less visible yet more permanent.
There were a couple of moments where we were faced with making very difficult choices. There were days of remaining calm while nearby fires spread and merged. The weather – wind direction, traces of moisture, temperature – became vital. The smoke turned the sky orange and the ash from the fires turned the waves dirty grey.
The birds were flying in skies dense with smoke…
… and the beach was covered in black char…
… which was strangely clean because any soluble ash had been absorbed into the ocean. One could scrunch a handful of the detritus and let it drop without the slightest smudge being left on the skin.
But our community, we were told by the local Rural Fire Service, was incredibly defendable and they intended to defend us. And they were right, and they did. With Coila Lake to the North of us and Tuross Lake to the South and the ocean to the East, and the RFS patrolling night and day, we were safe. The knowledge that if all else failed we could retreat to the beach was comforting.
Overhead giant water bombing helicopters roared just above the trees.
And fire trucks passed beneath our windows.
The Thursday after New Year’s was particularly bad.
But despite it all we remained safe, and were much more fortunate than many in our area. And though countless millions of hectares of Australian bushland was burnt, the Australian native plants are resilient in the face of firestorms, just like the Australians who live here. In some places the bush is already starting to make a recovery.
Hopefully everyone’s spirits will start to regenerate too.