This article is part of a series of articles which deal with the damaging effects of bush fires in Australia, including current issues, and the development of better resilience against these fires.
The articles will attempt to collate different aspects of research on the subject and to stimulate discourse in order to assist with our better understanding of the same.
We awoke at about midnight by a warning to leave the area. My initial thoughts were why do crises always seem to occur at midnight? In a bleary state, we quickly gathered a few things which included mainly essential items such as wet towels, non-flammable clothing and footwear, the mobile phone and some food and water. We then promptly departed.
We left as instructed by the authorities which is always recommended despite staying in a building properly designed to withstand bush fires. One of the significant advantages of such a building type is the assurance of safe occupation if leaving is not possible or dangerous. In our case it was considered safe to leave because the orange glow across the horizon was still a good distance from us.
At the main road the police instructed us to leave for the nearest town north as the main road was cut to the south. The drive to the next town was about an hour away and upon arrival, it seemed deserted except for the carpark of a hamburger restaurant which was lit up like a Christmas tree. We parked in this carpark and slept the night in the car.
In the morning I was pleased to exit my uncomfortable abode and while stretching my legs I met some friends who arrived after us and stayed in the same car park. We enjoyed a hot cup of coffee together and I asked them what things did they bring with them? They took me to their small car and showed me. There was the cat, the dog and in the back seat was a large white billy goat with a long beard and huge horns staring straight at me with angry eyes!!
I guess in times of emergency we all have different things which are important to us. In this case their pets were the most important possessions to them besides themselves. It is therefore a sobering reminder to prepare to take what is important to you well before you are asked to evacuate.
The sight of the goat seemed to lift the spirits of us all and the other ‘refugees’ who also gratefully accepted shelter in the car park the night before (thank you to the proprietors). We were all spared the damage from the fires and later that day the authorities reduced the threat levels and subsequently all of us left the park. However, before leaving, I did happen to steal a look into my friend’s little car just to see if there was any upholstery left in the same!!
PS: The fire we were escaping from was the Applethorpe fire in Queensland which started on the 6th September 2019. We were some of the first groups to be evacuated in the 2019 fires. Since then many thousands of people in most states have been evacuated to escape the bush fires/wildfires currently spreading over Australia.
David Cox is a Director of Cox Architects