Canberra Bushfires – Two years on

Posted by jerry on January 18th, 2005 — Posted in History, Journal

Today is the second anniversary of the Great Fire of Canberra – a time to reflect on how we have rebuilt and recovered from that event. By now those who weren’t there will have largely forgotten, perhaps occasionally recalling the colour of the sky that day, but otherwise forgetting that on that day Canberra became two groups of people.

Canberra Bushfires

After the smoke cleared, along with most of the garden, the house actually came off very lightly with only about $20,000 worth of damage – we were very lucky! The house was structurally sound and the wiring was okay. Considering the gas meter had melted off the wall we were quite amazed – it is a lucky house indeed 🙂

Canberra Bushfires

While the damage to the house was quite superficial, the garden was back to scorched earth. We tried digging the baked clay afterwards, but realised all we had was effectively a big ceramic pot for a garden. Several truckloads of new top soil later and months of buying plants and planting and digging (- and weeding! – with the forest gone, the weeds were quick to colonise the landscape, and the result is that weed seeds are a constant companion on the wind).

But as winter turns to Spring, and Spring to Summer for the second year we notice two things: firstly our garden was in shock for the first year and little flowered or flourished. Now as we conclude the second year, the garden is finally getting established and things are beginning to take off.

Canberra Bushfires

The big tree did not survive, and its timber is now milled and drying in my shed – it is my intention to build our dining table this year from that tree – I’ll blog the process when it happens.

The hedge is starting to look hedge-like now, instead of a row of shrubs

Canberra Bushfires

And the claret ash tree is growing strongly. The only trouble is that it looks like we may have to move it as we read recently that these things grow 20-30 metres tall – so it is probably a bit close to the power lines for that kind of size.

The second thing we have noticed is that, like the transition from winter to Spring, the suburb is sprouting houses from the bare blocks that were left in the wake of the devastation. And there is a very positive feel to the suburb as the place became a neighbourhood, rather than a collection of houses. We actually know the neighbours – for the first time in our lives. This sentiment is also being expressed at the level of the city as a new forward-looking plan has been proposed for a friendlier Canberra with lakeside coffee shops and family-friendly parks. Canberra is genuinely developing a heart.

In Weston Creek the sense of community is strong and as the new houses are nearing completion, and we see people all around rebuilding their lives – some of them from scratch – we are seeing a community emerge like a breath of fresh air. It is a wonderfully positive environment to be in.

Each year at this time we have a dinner to celebrate our good fortune and to reflect on what it means to survive a natural disaster – made all the more poignant this year with the Boxing Day Tsunnami in SE Asia and the bushfires in South Australia.

So here’s a glass to good fortune and another to absent friends


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