Two years ago today my family and I were sitting at the beach, having evacuated from our newly purchased bush property. We’d been watching the bushfires move from Queensland down through New South Wales slowly heading towards us, and they had arrived.
In winter, before we bought, we were camping in the area and knew it would be a bad summer – the normally wet and green south east corner of Australia was brown and dry as a chip. Having suffered from 5 years of drought, summer was going to be hot and dry, with no rain in sight. We decided we wouldn’t move into the house proper until summer was over.
It was difficult to leave, but also difficult to get back to the city after new year - fleeing tourists, closed roads and fuel was reserved for the Firies (Firemen). But make it back we did and we walked on hot coals for the next 6 weeks. The 4th Jan 2020 is literally burned in my memory – a scorching hot day, dry, with hot northerly winds. The entire east coast was a declared state of emergency. Thankfully, by late that night, the property was still untouched. But it wasn’t over.
The fires continued to close in and on two occasions the fire maps showed our place as burned. On both occasions the fires had missed the house.
There had been some rain, then on the 1st Feb the fires really did go through our valley. We were pretty sure we had lost our new home. We walked around in a daze not knowing what to do or say.
|We went back to the property on 14th Feb. It was surreal to see burned areas bursting with life. The valley had received nearly 300mm of rain and had transformed back into lush green as if nothing had happened. Driving up to the still standing house, through the burned and still smouldering forest, was … hard to describe.|
The Black Summer fires of 2020, as horrific as they were, were not the worst Australia has seen since white settlement. Yes, there was devastating loss, including 33 deaths. But, within months, the burned trees had their fuzzy jumpers of regrowth. Within 6 months it was getting hard to spot exactly where the fires had been. Two years later, as is usual, its a phoenix risen from the ashes.
Our area had low intensity fires for the most part, and didn’t suffer as much as some areas, so we were lucky. But bushfires are an integral part of the Australian landscape. Invasive weeds have been set back and the natives have come back strongly. The tree ferns have been going nuts. We have more animals, frogs and birds than ever, and there are a few less rabbits (a major pest).
Our property has gone from brown and dry when we bought, to the bright green haven we knew it could be. We’ve had nearly 2,000mm of rain in 2021, as compared with around 400mm in 2019. We can breathe easy for a little while. But the fires will happen again, and again, the forest will come back.
What is your phoenix from the ashes story?
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