I moved to Glenorie in 1996. Previously I had lived in a residential area. I had absolutely no idea of how bad bushfires can be in rural areas like Glenorie… until 2002.
I thought we would be OK. We had prepared and cleared around our house, we had hoses ready and we sort of had a plan. I also assumed that if things got bad, the local RFS trucks would be around to help me.
Summer 2002 had been hot and we had been in drought for a while. A grass fire started in South Maroota. It was a hot and windy day. The small fire VERY quickly raced away and became bigger and infinitely more dangerous, engulfing properties and sheds so fast.
This was before the ‘Fires Near Me” app (or the Hazards Near me App as its now known). We only knew something was wrong when we saw so many RFS trucks go past our house and we heard lots of sirens. Facebook wasn’t really a thing then, so information was limited, we listened to ABC radio.
We started to prepare more, wetting down the area around the house. By nightfall we could see the glow of the fire in the distance. Then the embers start to come over. I had no idea how frightening they could be and how far they travelled.
These embers were flying over the top of all our cleared areas and landing on our roof, next to our house and in the bush. We were now putting out spot fires everywhere. We didn’t think we needed a fire pump, we had cleared around our house.
Bushfire preparation: Protect yourself and your property
How silly we felt now, the water pressure for the hose was now non-existent and the power had gone out. All our neighbours were helping each other, one had a petrol pump and water tank on his ute and he was driving around helping with spot fires.
We had zero sleep that night (or the next night as the fire raced towards us from the other direction). We didn’t see any fire trucks as the village was under threat and all their resources were either on the fire front or protecting the village.
We were on our own. As the fire raced up the gully towards our house, coincidently a fire patrol car was driving past. We flagged them down. He radioed for air support. If the helicopter hadn’t dumped several loads of water on the fast moving fire front, we would have been gone, and so would our neighbours.
We all lost all of our bush (see image of aftermath), our neighbour lost his gutters, that’s how close it got that night. The following night, the fire had moved south of us, so we were on alert again.
The fire emergency lasted several days. The winds changed and it moved in different directions. Glenorie was headline news all over the world.
I had relatives call me from London to check I was OK. Glenorie/Forest Glen lost 33 houses, hundreds of animals both domestic and native and 1 life. The devastation was mind blowing.
So now we have a fire pump, a swimming pool (static water supply), sprinklers on my roof and roller shutters on a number of windows that face the bushland. Never again will I underestimate how fast fires can travel and how bad an ember attack can be.
I’m lucky I live on Cattai Ridge Road, I have several escape routes. If you live in a road with only one way out, plan for the scenario of that road being blocked. A fire can start at any time, and anywhere!
Given what is happening overseas, they are predicting this could be another catastrophic fire season. Please don’t be under prepared – plan your strategy. Houses can be replaced, lives can’t. If you leave early, tell your neighbours. If you intend to stay, buy your equipment now. Once a fire comes, everything sells out super fast!