As temperatures soared and fire danger hit extreme, I spent the weekend with my 18-month old son in the safety of Melbourne’s concrete jungle – well away from our home in the Macedon Ranges, 60-kilometres north of the city.
It was hot, dry, windy and almost felt like everyone was waiting for something bad to happen. It did.
Over the weekend, fires in the Adelaide Hills destroyed at least 12 homes (and most likely dozens more), and killed thousands of animals across South Australia and Victoria.Bush fires burning dangerously close to livestock.
It’s devastating for the residents who were made instantly homeless, waking today with little more than the clothes on their backs. And for farmers who lost their livelihoods and the animals they spent their lifetimes looking after.
And it took me right back there.
To February 10, last year – the day my husband Scott and I lost our home and a hundred of our sheep in the 2014 Victorian fires.
We had left early the day before, even before any fires had started, after hearing conditions were to be the worst since Black Saturday. But when news came of fires in our area, Scott (who is a member of our local CFA) went home to get our three dogs and move our 300 sheep to safety.
By the time he got there, fire authorities issued an emergency warning: “It’s too late to leave”.Townships issued an emergency warning from the CFA.
I started shaking when I recently re-read my frenzied text messages to my husband that day. And the moment I realised he planned to spend the night at our neighbour’s house, waiting for the fire-front to pass through.
The moment I realised I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
ME, 7:00pm: I’m scared. I love you.
ME, 7.00pm: Please tell me what you’re going to do.
ME, 7.00pm: I love you with all of my heart and soul. More than you could know. You are Louie’s hero, my hero. I need you by my side. Please please please stay safe xx
The next message I received was a photo of the hills on our property bursting into flames.
Then a phone call to say he was fleeing to the nearest town in the car with our dogs. He sounded scared. I hadn’t heard him like that before.
While he was making that terrifying 8-minute journey, I was pacing and chanting over and over: “I don’t care about the house, just let Scott be safe”.
And Scott was safe. We lost the house.
‘It’s just a house.’
I’ve heard this a lot since then.
It comes from people who mean well. And I get the subtext: it could have been a lot worse.
But, still, it wasn’t just a house. It was a home.