We are now one month into this new life journey. Strange times indeed. A vast expanse of the East coast forest has been burnt over the past couple of months. What I find extraordinary is that most of this destruction happened in spring, this is just the beginning of summer now. We are not into the fire season proper, yet there is so little left to burn. I can’t see it getting any worse when the really hot weather arrives! Certainly not here anyway.
We are so lucky to have such an amazing group of friends, who have gathered around and pitched in to help us with the clean-up. One month in and I have repaired or replaced the water reticulation system. This was all made of cheap plastic ‘poly-pipe’ and was badly effected by the fire. It was almost totally buried underground, however it wasn’t buried deep enough. I dug all the trenches by hand over a long period of time in the 70’s using a spade and a mattock. Six metres per day in the early morning before work. There was around 1000 metres of piping burried in this way over the years. I realise now that I should have put more effort in, but one man can only do so much.
We have almost finished clearing away all the burnt trees and shrubs around the house. We won’t re-plant them. With an eye to the future, and the likely-hood of another fire like this returning in the next 6 to 10 years being very high to almost certain. We have decided to keep the front of our land facing West almost completely clear and being just mown grass. With the global heating crisis continuing unabated and both government and the opposition totally in the grip of big carbon business interests, they are all still completely in denial. Even if there was some small degree of change right now, the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere will take all of my life time to filter it’s way through the system. My current circumstances are the living collateral damage of this dinosaur-like attitude of denial.
The way that the under growth litter builds up in this area, it takes around 4 years to develop a depth that can sustain a fire, then up to 6 years for the depth of flammable litter to increas, until it stabilises at around 6 to 7 years. This means that we can expect another fire of this magnitude in as little as 4 years, and certainly within 10 years. We have to live with this reality and plan accordingly. The national parks that surround us here are not going to go away or change radically, so we live in a ticking time bomb of fuel and potential fire hazard. This fire will return. We have been discussing if or how we might build a ceramic wall on the west to protect us from future radiant heat in the next fire. We may build a ‘gabian’ wall to effect this small level of protection. Time will tell.
The insurance company has sent in a demolition team to wreck the old building structure and reduce the site to ground level.
We have started thinking about how or what we will be able to re-build in the future. We can only think about what we might do at this stage, as we are unable make any decisions at the current time, until we get some sort of decision from the insurance company. We have nothing on paper as yet, just a few phone calls. I’d like a decision so that I can move on and start to be creative, not just stuck in stasis.
As we have nothing to work with, the first priority will be to build a simple carport, so that I can have a covered space to set up a workbench and a vise. This will allow me start to make the parts that I will need to be able to rebuild everything – eventually.
This is quite a different road to travel now. I wasn’t expecting this a few months ago. We had organised to sell our kiln building company – ‘Hot and Sticky Pty Ltd’ to a local couple, and were planning to spend this January working with them, teaching them how to fabricate and fit out our special kiln designs. Luckily for them the transaction was due to take place on the 6th of January, so they didn’t loose any money.
On the plus side, I’m much better at driving a bobcat now. Maybe a potential new career change? ‘Load and Lumpy’. I’m also much more experienced at chain-sawing burnt, dead trees after a month on the saw. ‘Stihl crazy after all these years’.
The tree surgeons have been and taken down the 3 big, dead, pine trees that were growing over the house. Pine trees don’t suffer wildfire very well. They don’t recover from fire the way that eucalypts do.
After the catastrophic fire had passed through here on the 20th and the emergency was almost over. The pottery had burnt down, I had put out the fire in the railway station. I was then fully occupied in carrying buckets of water over to the barn to throw them on the fire there. The pump on the barn failed after an hour or so. So carrying buckets over there was my only option. After two hours of that I was bushed and the fire wasn’t out, but still just smouldering. Whenever I stopped for breath and the wind blew up. The fire re-kindled into life. It wasn’t until I unscrewed the corrugated iron sheeting off the wall, and got the next passing fire truck to stop and squirt water into the smouldering hollow of there large hardwood post, that the fire was finally out over there.
I was so shocked and tired, exhausted really. I wandered back to the house to find that a couple of dead pine tree branches half way up the tree were on fire and were smouldering and bursting into flame when ever the wind gust came from the East. Blowing them into life and a flurry of sparks and flames would emerge from the branch, showering red hot embers down onto the roof of the house. I still had the house pump running on low, just to keep the roof and gutters wet, but I soon realised that I didn’t have enough water or petrol to last the night. I couldn’t sleep in the house with embers dropping on the bedroom roof like that! I had saved my house and escaped death in the conflagration by hiding in my kiln. I couldn’t give up now!
I had to do something. I wasn’t about to let the house burn down after all I had already done. I decided that my only option was to get the big extension ladder and climb the tree, and chop off the offending branches. I have a whipper/ snipper gadget to which I can add an extension bar, plus a small chainsaw attachment on the end. I climbed the ladder and stepped onto the next tree branch up, then held the chain saw as far above my head as I could reach, directly overhead, to saw off the branch. I closed my eyes and cut the branch off. It whistled down past my ear, missing my shoulder, then bounced off the ladder, landing on the ground, shattering and bursting into flames and setting fire to the grass at the foot of the ladder.
I managed to cut off both branches and climb down through the fire to run to the house and wet my clothes. I lay on my bed and starting shaking. This was the most terrifiying thing that I had to do on that day. Indeed, in my entire life. I was pretty shattered by the effort that it took me. It wasn’t like the fire front coming through, I just did that without thinking. Cutting the pine tree branches off was an act of willpower. To really risk my life in real time, to save my house. The effort that it took me at the end of such a traumatic day really broke me.
I went to bed, but couldn’t sleep. I just lay there shivering, but I wasn’t cold. I didn’t know what was happening. I realised later that this was some sort of reaction to the shock of the days events.
I was completely shattered. I had saved my house from the catastrophic wild fire – twice, and now it could have burnt down from the other direction, from a moderate easterly breeze. Unbelievable!
This is certainly a different road!
We will navigate it together.