Have you ever been in a bushfire? For most of us, this scary situation is only something that we watch unfold over the news from the comfort of our homes. But for some, having their homes in the line of fire is something that they will constantly struggle to forget.
One of our readers was kind enough to share her story anonymously. This story is not meant to scare but rather inform that bushfires are real and they can’t always be controlled. But everyone can prepare and know the warning signs to ensure they make the right decisions in the event of a bushfire warning.
Please read her story. And, Queensland residents, for more information on current bushfire warnings in your area, as well as survival tips and advice, visit https://ruralfire.qld.gov.au/bushfires/
Growing up by the beach, bushfires were never something I was too concerned about. But when I met my husband and we moved inland, there was a lot more talk about bushfires. Where we live there are bushfires often and since the evacuation, the QLD fire website is on our computer tabs just so we can check whenever we need.
But it wasn’t always like this.
A few years ago when my daughter was four and we were living in our current property inland we relied on the news to tell us what was happening. At 6:00pm we sat down to dinner to watch the news and sure enough there was a bushfire nearby. We watched the town be evacuated and listened to some of the residents speak about how nervous they were. And we left it.
An hour later we received a phone call from the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service. The wind had turned; the bushfire was coming right for us. It was time to go.
I wasn’t prepared. I had never been in a situation where I had to leave my home and we didn’t have any family members close by to go to. We really had no idea where to go. We talked to our neighbours who were on their way to the nearest shelter and they suggested we go there too. I remember wandering around the house with an empty suitcase staring aimlessly at our stuff and thinking to myself. It’s only stuff. It’s only stuff. But it’s not only stuff. It’s our stuff. It’s our familiar stuff. And it might be the last time I ever see our stuff.
In the end the stuff I packed with me was ridiculous. I left the insurance papers, the mobile phone charger, the passports and bottled water. I packed a framed photo of our family, my daughter’s favourite stuffed animal and five books that were sitting on my bedside table. Books? Seriously. I wasn’t used to packing for an evacuation; I was used to packing for a holiday.
But worst of all, I left the dog. I didn’t know if we could bring him to the shelter and my husband was screaming at me to get in the car and the neighbours had already left and I didn’t know who to call to ask and I could smell the smoke in the air so we hopped in the car and left our six year old dog in our fenced backyard.
It didn’t sink in that this might be the last time I saw him. It didn’t sink in that this might be the last time I ever saw my home again. These thoughts only surfaced when we arrived at the crowded shelter and waited there with many other families in the same situation.
It wasn’t a nice feeling, although everyone was friendly, everyone was incredibly concerned. Everyone had left something behind, whether it was a pet, a policy, a photo, a piece of themselves. And everyone was anxious to return home to the stuff that was just stuff, but so much more than stuff.
Fortunately, the bushfire never hit our home. The air was smoky for days and the toys that were left outside were somewhat damaged but our stuff was fine.
And so was our dog. But I still feel terrible any time I think about what could have happened.
We arrived home exhausted. I remember dragging my suitcase filled with useless stuff into the bedroom to unpack it. I opened it up and burst into tears. Because, if we were in the line of fire, this was all I would have left. This suitcase of useless crap. And it wasn’t enough.
I cannot stress how important it is to be prepared. It doesn’t take a lot of time to put together an emergency bushfire survival kit and put a bushfire preparation plan into place. Know where you will go; know what will happen to your pets; know what you need to bring; and most importantly, know where you can get the information you need. It is so critical that you don’t rely on the news. We were lucky to have received that phone call but this isn’t always the case. The Rural Fire Service Queensland website offers up to date and accurate advice for Queensland residents. Know your bushfire warnings. You cannot control how the wind turns or where the fire strikes, but you can control what you do with the information you have.
Take it from me the worst thing about being evacuated and not knowing what would happen was that I was so unprepared. We didn’t have the right stuff; we didn’t even really know where to go; and worst of all, we left our dog at home. At times such as these, logic and rationale go out the window, this is human nature. Survival comes first. Plan early, plan at a time when you can think clearly.
To download a bushfire survival plan, have your bushfire questions answered and keep informed on fire updates from the Rural Fire Service Queensland go to the Website: https://ruralfire.qld.gov.au/bushfires/