It’s the weekend. The cat carry cage sits by the front door, the dog leash on top of it – just in case.
Smoke fills the air and the fire front is 20 kilometres away, but with strong, gusty 65-kilometre an hour winds, if things get out of control it could arrive in 20 minutes.
The day is extremely hot and dry with windy conditions. The grass is brown and the so-called lawn crunches underfoot like it does when there is a heavy frost. And it’s not looking good.
The official fire danger rating is ‘Extreme’. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) says “If a fire starts and takes hold, it will be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving. Spot fires will start, move quickly and come from many directions”.
When I moved into the property I had a lovely chat with a fire fighter at the local fire station, and after looking at where the house is situated he said, “Naah, it’s not defendable. The safest thing would be for you for you to leave”. And so the decision was made.
There’s smoke in the air, and the sound of fire-fighting choppers is both comforting and scary.
A cool change is predicted, with a wind change from northerly to southerly, which would change the direction of the fire’s path – taking it away. And sure enough it comes. It’s a relief, but it doesn’t make you feel happy, as you know the fire is now moving on a path towards someone else.
Having belongings sitting next to the front door ready to up and go at a moment’s notice, took me back to my childhood.
Grandmother Gafnit Z”L, kept a small bag packed in a cupboard next to the front door – just in case. In post-war Europe this was not uncommon. As she said, “You never know”. Sadly, our family knew first hand what could happen if you waited to see if things got better.
As a child, there was no overt warning not to get attached to what we today would call ‘stuff’. But there was definitely an unconscious assimilation of this knowledge. It has never left me.
So, what would you put in your ‘Just in (the) case’? Identity documents, important papers, a change of clothes, a toothbrush and medicines? What do we really need?
For me, the ‘fur kids’ are the most important, and ID documents – everything else can be replaced.
In the end between the tireless efforts of the wonderful CFA fire crews aided by the weather change, there was no need to leave on that day – others were not so lucky. And when the ‘All Clear’ was finally given at 7:29pm three days later, you could physically feel the relief flow through you.
I have the greatest admiration and respect for these fire-fighters. They are volunteers and there are almost 60,000 of them across the state. They give up there time all year long, they get called out to floods and accidents as well as fires. They put themselves at risk, they get injured, and some make the ultimate sacrifice. Their families also make many sacrifices – with partners keeping the household together, not knowing what is happening to their loved ones, and kids missing their parents who are in the middle of the action.
For me last weekend brought the concept of sacrifice, smoke and fire a little too close for comfort. I didn’t have to leave this time, maybe next week, next month or next year will be a different story. You never know.