Although the bushfires are still burning, the immediate threat to communities has been downgraded from the highest “emergency” alert level , to “watch and act”, so people have been able to return to their homes.
We are hearing more individual stories, not just the headlines. The personal tales of a difficult few weeks.
Hotel and petrol station owners who stayed in the evacuated towns, to help firefighters.
Friends evacuated, staying with relatives, their car loaded with some clothes, bedding, their “treasures” and vital documents. We’ve had interesting conversations at work about what we’d take and the diminished value of the “stuff” in our homes that we could live without.
I chatted to our client who has family members staying in her small three bedroom, one bathroom home – 14 people including teenage boys!, 4 dogs, 10 guinea pigs, 2 birds and 3 cats. They had two slow cookers on the go so people could eat in relays, the washing machine was going non-stop, mattresses everywhere, no room “to swing a cat”. Her fingers crossed that her plumbing doesn’t get blocked or break down.
Another elderly client “wasn’t taking any chances”, she was packed and ready to leave in a hurry as she’d lived through the devasting fires fifty years ago that left 62 people dead, 900 injured and over seven thousand homeless.
A young couple who hadn’t seen their baby son for days, he’s with his grandparents while they stayed to defend their home and farm buildings from ember attacks and to feed the animals.
A local fisherman sailed 11 tonnes of donated supplies to two cut off towns on Friday, food, drinks, pet food, toiletries and sanitary products. Shops are empty as the road south had been closed.
Anxiety levels have been high with this fire, as the threat and evacuation dragged on. Pets have gone missing, unused to their temporary surroundings. The prolonged smoke has caused its own health issues.
There are always a few helicopters flying over Hobart, small rescue helicopters, tourist flights, private aircraft. But now there are large noisy helicopters heading to and from the airport, fire fighting craft, water bombers, helicopters that you can hear before you see them, loud thundering craft that sound like the opening scene from “Miss Saigon”.
We’ve had a couple of calmer days, but the fires are expected to burn for weeks and there is little rain forecast for February.
Children are due to return to school this coming week after the summer holidays. There are contingencies for students and staff will relocate to primary and high schools in the evacuation area.
We are seeing the best of people, a strong community spirit, helping neighbours, stangers and huge gratitude and support for all emergency service crew.
On a lighter note, the smoke filled atmosphere has produced some stunning sun rises and sun sets.