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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

3 years ago today - a collection of thoughts and memories etc ...

A week or 2 ago, I promised I would post this ...
... I kind of got busy for a few days, then decided that I should post it on the 18th - and that is today ... so here it is ...

This is a (rather long!) collection of bits and peices from all the e-mails I saved durning the Canberra bushfires in January 2003 ... I probably would have blogged this at the time, if I had a blog ... actually that was most of my reason for finally starting a blog - so I had somewhere to put this kind of stuff all together in one place ... and I had been intending to put this lot in here sometime anyway
... I thought about it, and started collecting all these bits together (in an e-mail in my drafts folder actually - lol) the other day because I was reminded of the fires/etc with all the smoke and the falling burnt bits we got - blown in from some distant bushfires to the North and/or West of Canberra ( see my blog post from that day) and I decided to finally post it here (because if I had had a blog back then, most of this stuff probably would have been IN it - LOL)
... I was going to do it a day or 2 after that other post, but then I got busy for a few days ... then I decided to wait until the 18 and post it exactly 3 years after the whole thing started ... it is now the 18th (It was 18th January 2003 that the fires bunt into Canberra) - so here is my little collection of bits -

The person who writes that blog I just posted about ( ) was living in Canberra when the bushfires came - and something she wrote was the first thing I had saved - I don't think she will mind me posting it here, after all - she did post it on a yahoogroup that had more than 1000 members! (and she probably would have blogged it if she had a blog back then too ... lol)

I am sandwiching a quilt - or trying to - to keep busy.

We have just cleared all gutters. We have strong wind, 38 degrees,
and fire ripping through the Namadgi national park and only one
set of hills from Canberra. The wind is so strong it is bending the
trees double and ash and black leaves are thick in the sky - like a
dark snowstorm. I can now see a red glow over the hills, like a
blood red sunset, but it is only 3.00 in the afternoon.

The sky is dark murky orange and it is as dark as 8.30 at night -
really eerie. Funny how something primitive reacts to a wrongness
in the light - I am really uneasy.

That was why. Phone just rang. My daughter is on emergency alert
and so is my sister. Both are on the edges of grasslands and
paddocks near the fire. My husband has gone to help my sister to
wet down the roof and fill gutters with water. My son is collecting
kids and dogs from my daughter.

I really don't like this.


There are a few Canberra people on that yahoogroup she posted to, so there was quite a lot of talk about it ... this is part of something i posted to that list later that evening (the first half was an update of what I had heard on the news and a couple of websites that had info, about the fires, on them at the time)

...... I was going to do some more of the sorting out in my sewing room
today ... but I kind of spent all day ducking up the laneway where I can get
a good view of the fires that are nearby (to see if any were heading our way
or not), and clearing up some junk around the yard so that it won't catch
fire if we get falling embers and stuff (some black leaves/etc fell on the
concrete outside this evening, but lots of places are getting burning stuff
falling out of the sky, from the approaching fires ... I think that is how a
lot of the fires are spreading so fast)
On a positive note ... the fires seem to be bringing out the good side of
people ... all the wonderful volunteers fighting fires etc, and also the
community spirit that seems to be bobbing up in the streets ... people here
in Dunlop keep wandering outside, and up and down the street, to get a
better look at how close the fires are coming ... and everyone is stopping
and chatting to everyone ... like we are all one big family ...

up too late, as usual,
in Dunlop.

this is part of an e-mail i sent to Mum (again - the first half was updates on what was on the news etc ... and the end bit was about the kids and other stuff that wouldn't make any sense to anyone else reading this except maybe Mum - lol)

... ... and there are roads closed
all over the place, and a couple of suburbs have been evacuated ... but
Dunlop is still ok ... the fires, and even most of the smoke/etc, seem to
have passed us by ... and even if the wind picks up again (it has died down
now) and blows the fire this way I think we will be ok here ... too many
houses and not enough trees/etc between here and where any fire could come
from ... I am a bit worried about Janice and at least a couple of scquilters
though ... Kambah is in a bad way, and some other suburbs I know scquilters
live in are even worse off ... and the weather is probably going to be a bit
better tomorrow, but hot and windy again on Monday ... and probably Tuesday
... etc ...
btw ... I know I am up too late ... but I am too wide awake to sleep at the
I keep thinking I should be out there somewhere helping ... but I guess
there is not much I could do at the moment ... maybe I should have joined a
bushfire brigade, instead of just thinking about it? (I decided not to quite
yet, because the kids are still a bit young to leave home if I get called
out at night or something and I am still not back in the morning when Brian
has to go to work ...

of course the last I had heard from Janice in kambah (who I mentioned in the e-mail to Mum) was just before the fires hit -

Subject: A quick update from hot smokey Canberra

I was shopping in Tuggeranong and there was an announcement over the PA that
the area of Tharwa was being evacuated due to the fires.

I have just found out through someone on another list that the suburb of
Banks is on high alert and like to also be evacuated.

You cannot see far for the smoke, and there is a really eerie darkness
tinged with a yellow glow. It is not even 2:00pm and I have the lights on

The temperature is well into the 30's and we are expecting 38 or possibly
even 40 degrees (this is in Celsius for anyone outside of Australia).

Our electricity is playing up, with the lights dipping a lot so I had better
get off the computer.

On top of that it is so hot that the computer is overheating.

Like most people that day - she didn't have a clue what was coming!

I was glad to see her post on a crochet yahoogroup the next day - but boy did she have a story to tell! ...

Hi all,

I am at a friends place and have access to the Internet at last.

Dave and I experienced the full firestorm as it came through Kambah
yesterday. We live on the slopes of Mt taylor, which suddenly -
literally suddenly - errupted int flame. We were out the front
hosing the house when it came through and we and all the neighbours
thought we were going to lose everything including maybe our lives.

Then the mini cyclone (aftermath of winds form the fire storm) hit
as we were trying to evacuate and there were trees falling on houses

We had a few belongings in our car and two of our 6 cats, plus the 4
almost 5 week old kittens. We drove over to Wanniassa (with great
difficulty (the next suburb)- thank goodnenss we have a 4 wheel
drive, where our friends live. Then it came over
the news telling Kambah residents to go home and salvage what they

We came home and expected to have no house, but it was still there,
but we could see smoke coming from the back. The house behind us had
a tree on fire and the house there was just catching alight. The
people weren't home and Dave just jumped the fence and got the fire
out - otherwise that house, and most probably ours would have been

The next door neigbours house and shed was on fire so Dave and some
of the neighbours started on that - then all the house along the
back had their backyards bursting into flame. This went on for a
couple of hours and I just stayed with our house putting out spot
fires that kept occuring in the back yard.

Then suddenly it died down and at about 6:00pm we realised we had no
phone and no power. Thankfully we were able to account for all 6

We still have no phone and no power and we are back at [their friends
As there is no threat back at home tonight so we are
staying here tonight as tomorrow we are expecting a possible repeat
performance with temps in the high 30's (Celsius) and high, hot, dry
winds and we need a good nights sleep, food and showers.

Janice in Canberra

Here is an update I sent to someone who e-mailed and asked if we were OK (this was the afternoon after the first/worst of the fires hit Canberra)

We are ok here in Dunlop ... we don't have any bush close to us here ...
just getting ash and burnt leaves falling from a smoky sky, and listening to
all the horrible details on the radio/etc, and feeling a bit like I should
be helping but there is not much we could do ... but I think there are a few
other scquilters who might be affected ... I know of at least one
who lives down on the edge of one of the worst
hit areas ... and a few more who live in areas where the fires have not gone
through, but are full of smoke and the power/etc is out and the roads all
blocked/closed ...
listening to the choppers fly overhead ... (we are between one of the big
fires, and the lake where the water bombers are filling up)

... the "scquilters" I mentioned are the people on that yahoogroup with over
1000 members (the one I mentioned at the start of this blog post - the
person who I was replying to was also on that list)

here is half of another e-mail i sent to Mum (the other half was a reply to
an e-mail she had sent me a few days before)

... things a really bad with the fires in Canberra now, but we are still
ok out here ... just raining ash and burnt leaves every now and then out
here ... the last couple days have been kind of weird ... burnt leaves
raining from a hazy sky, sunlight has a red tinge from all the smoke ...
choppers flying around ... and people wandering around the street looking at
the hills, and total strangers chatting to each other, about the latest news
and all the "ifs and maybes", as if they know each other ... is kind of
surreal ... We are kind of in a good spot here ... close enough to see some
of the fires in the hills/etc, but just far enough away to be safe ... glad
we are not in Kambah actually ... the power is out down there, and one
suburb down south has been virtually destroyed (one that had pine forest on
2 sides of it) ... someone Brian knows (part of a group of them who go on
motorbike rides together) lives in that suburb (Duffy) and he watched both
his neighbours loose their houses while his was just ok ...
btw ... there was also a fire on Mt Rodgers this morning ... which is the
hill on the other side of Fraser/Charnwood ... probably deliberately lit too
... the choppers water bombed it and got it out without any houses/etc being
lost ... (but that meant that there was an hour or so when there were 2 less
choppers available to dump water on the other big fires ). I actually
got a glimpse of the big one dumping it's load of water (they drop it from
fairly high up) ... that was before I had heard about it on the radio ...
and I pointed it out to Brian (who was just heading off to the shop for some
rolls for lunch) and I said that it looked close to us ... and he said that
it would be over above the fires in Mitchell ... (and they say women can't
judge distances ). I was up the end of the laneway that goes onto
Kerrigan street when he came back past and he stopped and wound down the
window to tell me that he had heard on the radio that it was Mt Rodgers ...
but by then I had already heard it too ... and I had just seen a water
bombing chopper do 2 circles around the area without dropping it's load, and
then high tail it off towards the fires in the hills ... so I knew the fire
on Mt Rodgers must have been under control (and then I heard the same on the
radio a bit later).
Canberra is going to be quite a mess for a while though ... the fire damaged
the big sewerage treatment plant (which is not far from here ... over the
hill near Holt/etc, where the fire burnt some houses etc too ... ) and
everyone is supposed to not shower or use washing machines etc today and
wash dishes/clothing in a bucket and pour it on the garden to avoid putting
as much down the sewer as they can ... our washing machine water goes on the
lawn anyway ... they are supposed to be going to have it back up and
running tomorrow though

... yes they did have it fixed the next day ;-)

I also sent and recieved a LOT more e-mails that day (the Sunday after the
worst of the fires hit on Saturday) and the next day - a lot of people were
posting to a few of the yahoogroups I am on - passing on news about people,
and sharing stories of what they have seen/lived through, and told people
what stuff they did/will pack in their cars if they have to evacuate from
their homes ...
one funny thing though - Mum didn't go online and read the e-mails from me
until about Monday or Tuesday - and it wasn't until she saw the news on
Sunday evening that she even knew we had bushfires in Canberra! ... I guess
that explains why she didn't ring me until Sunday night! LOL (and then when
she did ring - I was trying to ring her at the exact same time and we both
got the engaged signal - lol ... but we did get to talk a bit later when
one of us rang again ...)

This is the last part of an e-mail I sent in the early hours of Monday
morning ... it was a reply to yet another person from that scquilters
yahoogroup - she e-mailed me to tell me she had heard from her relatives in
canberra and they were ok, and, because she lives on the other side of the
country I told her what I knew about the fires and about Canberra people we
both knew on the yahoogroup... and I ended the e-mail with this ...

... not sure I would go to sleep if I went to bed early anyway ...
everything is so crazy at the moment ... in some ways/some areas life goes
on just like normal, but in other areas/ways things are all upside down ...
it has been really strange, sort of out here on the edge, where we can see
the fires over in the hills, and could see the smoke as the fires burnt on
the edge of Holt ... and seeing choppers flying overhead on their way to
waterbomb the fires (or on their way back to fill up from the lake) ... and
hearing all the fragmented news reports about areas where I know people ...
and knowing that while I was standing taking photos of the smoke clouds and
fires in the hills and sunsets, there were people fighting for their houses
and their lives ... it was all kind of surreal ...

I also said this on the end of another e-mail that I posted to that scquilters yahoogroup

... it may be several days before we hear any news about some
people ... Canberra has suffered a LOT of damage ... and it may take a while
to get things back to some semblance of normality in some areas ... I just
hope we have seen the last of these fires ... but with the more hot windy
weather on the way ... who knows what will happen ...

up too late, as usual,
in Canberra ...

... btw, a while ago I had a look over the back fence, and I can still see
the fires
glowing up in the hills ... looks kind of eerie ... in fact the last couple
of days have been rather weird ... kind of surreal ...

( I wonder if I can work a quilt idea into that? ... maybe even one that I
can use for Nola's second challenge ... that has to have a lot of red in
it ... I wonder if I can make the theme fit? ... I know - I am weird )

yep - I was already thinking of quilt/etc ideas! LOL

The other funny thing was - they actually called in busfire brigade units from Sydney and even from up in Queensland, to come to Canberra and be there in case the fires got bad again (there was more hot weather and high winds predicted for the week or 2 after the fires first hit) ... and some members of the bushfire brigade that Dad is in (on the Sunshine coast of Qld) came down to canberra for a few days ... and guess where they ended up? - yep - just over the road burning fire breaks on the edge of the grassy paddocks here in Dunlop! LOL
I noticed the fire trucks arrive and start burning fire breaks and was doing my usual - taking too many photos - when I noticed that the fire truck I had lined up in the viewfinder was from Maroochydoore (a town near where Mum and Dad live) ... so I looked at the other trucks and saw they were all from up there - so I went over to say hi (they were all having a drink/etc break before they started burning the fire break) ... and told them who my Dad was ... we had a good laugh ... then one of the blokes alked up and handed me his mobile phone - and Mum was on the other end! - he had found out who I was and rang Mum and Dad's number! ... small world eh? ... I e-mailed them a heap of photos - I am sure they apprecialted that because they didn't have time to take any themselves ...

I do have more assorted e-mails in my collection ... mostly stuff people have posted to the various yahoogroups I am on ... about the latest news and weather reports/etc, and fires in other parts of the country (yes - a lot more places than just Canberra had fires that January) ... and about how they slowly started to hear from people and that people they knew were ok ... and about how the good side of human nature came out ... strangers helping people they had never met, such as people opening their doors to families, from their street/etc, that they had never got to know before, who had lost houes in the fires, and quilters offering to make and send quilts to those who had lost homes ... in fact that is a whole story in itself - working bees were organised and there were more than enough quilts made/donated so that every Canberra family who lost their house/etc got at least one quilt, often more. I know a quilt doesn't replace loosing everything, but it is a practical way of comforting people and showing them that others are thinking of them ...

I had probably better stop adding stuff to this anyway - this post is going to be a mile long!

except I will add this bit ... I have found a lot of bits like this in all those e-mails I sent places -

I have to find my sewing room in all the mess (been sorting it out ... again
) and I need to finish a couple of my more urgent UFO's/etc first ...

yes ... I was trying to get my sewing room sorted out then, and I still have not finished that 3 years later!
(I sort of do most of it, then start making quilts again! ... then my fabric/etc stash grows and/or I realise things don't work well enough how they are arranged, so I move the furniture around (re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic? lol) and start again ... I just need the rest of the world to stop for about 6 months, while I catch up with it ... LOL)

I think I also need to go to bed!
(I want to get up and go out somewhere in the morning ... and it is getting a bit too close to the time I have to get up ... oops ...)

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