Canberra bushfires – one year on

Posted by jerry on January 18th, 2004 — Posted in Journal

Today (Sunday 18 Jan – in Australia it is anyhow!) is the anniversary – one year to the day since the Canberra bushfires came through our suburb. We were lucky in only losing the garage and front garden and fences – superficial stuff really, but the reminders are there with our neighbour’s house still untouched after a year – the back end still charred. It has taken a year for the insurance to settle with them and they have only recently taken the painful decision to sell up and leave the suburb after 30-odd years. We were in the process of buying our place when the fires came through so the house were were buying was empty, and our old place was packed up in boxes. We fought the fires at the old place – embers falling like a snow blizzard – the darkness like night fall and the sound (the unforgettable sound!) of gale-fanned flames on an enormous scale and roofs clattering like pine boards dropped onto cement and the power poles glowing like candles.

But there are some amazing positives. We now know everyone in the street – I have lived for years in other houses never even knowing the name of our next door neighbour, but here everyone has come together as a community. And the whole district is like in perpetual Spring as new houses are coming into bloom, springing up out of the bare blocks. Winter was Winter – the blocks had been cleared (mostly) of debris and there was a collective hiatus or holding of the breath. I guess this was when those who were rebuilding were getting their house plans drawn up and going through the Council approval processes. Then Spring came and by the start of Spring in October the first sets of foundations were being poured. By mid summer (December) the frames were up and piles of bricks sprouted on pallets, transforming themselves at remarkable speed into walls and windows and then the tiles appeared for the roof and gradually these too took shape. Around ten percent of the sestroyed houses have been rebuilt to the point where the owners have moved in – many racing the last few details to get in by Christmas.

In a street of eighteen houses we lost five, and those whose houses were saved are rebuilding their gardens. Our neighbours have commented on how colourful our garden is – truth is we were desperate for any colour other than “charred brown” so we went a bit crazy with flowering shrubs and trees and loads of pansies and petunias of all different colours, and bulbs – tulips and daffodils and the unkillable agapanthus (burnt to the ground they almost all grew back!). And of course the tree – formerly towering over the house at the front is now stacked, milled into boards, ready to be turned into our new dining table – but that’s another story!

So we are having a street party today to mark our survival and to acknowledge how far we have come in one year 🙂 It’s been quite a journey…


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