With fires under control this morning, today has been a strange day - I have had mixed feelings - thankfulness and relief that we still have our current home and our new house to go back to, 'guilt' that we still have everything while so many so close by now have nothing, tension, impatience to get back home to normal life, sadness that for many life will not be normal for a long time. I am now exhausted and have a splitting headache, but we are home. Aside from a strong smoky smell, and a little ash coming through the fans, everything is fine here.
Wow, what a time we have had here these past few days. We evacuated our house on Sunday afternoon (the kids and I at around 2:30, and Phil at around 5pm - a big thankyou to Phil's parents for caring for us all) and returned late this afternoon. We are extremely thankful that we have a home to return to, and that the house we are building was also untouched. The whole experience has been somewhat surreal. The kids commented on the smoky smell, and we gave the usual response 'must be a bushfire somewhere', only to look outside a little while later to see the fire spreading across the hills around us at an alarming rate. And then rooftops catching alight. And people coming down our road and stopping to watch with us and the other neighbours, informing us in tears that they have just watched their house go up in flames. By late afternoon the general advice for our area was to leave, and we could see that there was going to be little we could do for our home if the wind turned the fire our way. Phil then went to our new house which was also close to the fire zone, to clean out the gutters. He described unreal views of the raging fire, with the whole area aglow, as well as hearing pops and explosions as more houses were engulfed.
I know events like this have people asking themselves 'what would I take with me', and that people are always curious as to what others take in emergencies. I can answer the many people who asked that, yes, I did take my quilts. All the quilts which I plan to take to Melbourne in April were rolled together, and we had room and time to take them so we did (while discussing together how materialistic it felt). We also took the backup portable hard drive from the computer, important documents, a change of clothes each, the camera (for recording what we saw - but no memory card, so that was pointless), wallets, and not too much else. We plan to have a written plan for future, as I'm sure I wasn't thinking straight - given the time I had, I could have easily packed a suitcase with enough clothes for everyone for a few days (including sleepwear), proper footwear, bedding, health bags and more. Maybe it just goes to show how surreal the experience was. Even as we saw houses going up in flames my mind was telling me that surely we were overreacting by evacuating and that we could all come home late that evening, or early the next morning at the latest.
(The first picture was taken on the hill close to our house. I haven't taken photos of the burnt out houses as I didn't feel comfortable with that, but the devastation is certainly very real! The second photo is the view from our front lawn (with Phil's car parked to the side) and shows where the fire got to to the east of us. The third photo is taken near the end of our street, along my morning walk route. With the comprehensive radio coverage, we were fairly certain that we were going to come home to an intact house, but we know so many people who have experienced this fire first hand - on their street, in their neighbours homes, on their own property and even in their own house, and we can only begin to imagine the distress they have gone through and will continue to feel for some time!)