I have left my written description of the firestorm on this site, but I was having a lot of trouble publishing the pictures as they were so large, so I have moved them plus this one to another site, which was easier to publish. Click here to go to this web page.
The background colour to these photos has been chosen as being the closest to the colour of the sky before the firestorm hit Canberra.
All these photos have been taken in the streets around where I live, all were within walking distance.
FIRESTORM HITS CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA ON SATURDAY 18TH JANUARY, 2003
In the weeks previous to Saturday January 18th there had been several bush fires burning in the Namadgi National Park and in the Brindabella Ranges near Canberra. Most of the area is inaccessable and was therefore difficult to fight. Most of the population of Canberra were not aware that the fires were threatening their city, although there had been for many days a smoke haze over the city and the sun was seen as a bright orange ball.
That morning we set off, as is our usual habit, to have lunch at a local club. We were coming home early as there was an interesting programme on SBS TV.
At about 2.30 pm the wind came up and it began to get dark. By 3.00pm the sky was bright red and it was as dark as midnight. We had packed my car, which is the larger of the two, with all our papers, the CPUs from two computers, the laptop computers and all my cameras.
Then two houses away the wooden fences and the garage caught fire. Then a house where the owners were away on holiday, just three houses away, went up with a roar, the flames from it were so high they were right over our house and several stories high then the burning embers started to fall. There was one firefighter all on his own, and as he said, without equipment or other firefighters, he could do nothing. A policewoman pulled up in her car and screamed at me to get out. My husband also screamed at me to get out.
So in great fear and trepidation with my daughter and her cat in the car I drove off. I now know I drove over live power lines on the road (240 volts). Then I drove through flames on either side of the car, I couldn't see ahead of me, but I knew I had to keep going, to stop would have meant being burnt. Then I drove through smoke so thick all I could see was the white line on the road, I knew I had to keep just to the left of it. My daughter was very distressed, but the cat was as calm as calm, she likes rides in the car, its one of her favourite places.
I went to a friends home in Mawson as she is right in the middle of a suburb, not on the outskirts as we are. We lamented and talked and generally worried about our city. She managed to cook some food before the power went off. I then tried to ring our house, but there was no noise on the line, I now know all the cables were burnt. So I decided we had to go back home and see the results of the fire.
As we drove towards the house we were psychologically preparing ourselves for a burnt out wreck. BUT...it was there and so was my husband. He had had two hoses going, one at the back and one at the front. He had been running between the two. On leaving one he would jam it in the fork of a tree so it would still be spraying water. He also saved the house next door, well he had too, if it had burnt, ours surely would have to. The man from that house ran away and still does not know who saved his house. Fancy a man in his forties leaving a man of nearly 77 to save his house!!!
But of course everything was very black with ash and some trees were still burning, and of course as all the poles carrying the electricity and phone lines were burnt there was no power and no phone. Thank goodness I had two mobile phones, but even they took a while for them to come back on line.
The phone was not restored until 24th, and the power not until 27th, and I remember the time well, it was such a cause for celebration after so many days without power, 7 minutes to 1 pm.
We had a large deep freezer which was packed with food. It all had to be thrown out, 10 days without power does not improve frozen food. We listed and photographed all the food in the hope we can make an insurance claim, however it does not appear hopeful. In fact we now know food spoilage is not covered unless you are claiming for some other fire damage, which we are not. A lesson to all, read the fine print in your insurance policy.
Then the frig decided it was sick of working and stopped. Fortunately we found a frig mechanic who knew exactly the problem, the thermostat, $145 to repair is better than $1000 to replace.
All the photos on the following pages were taken in this area, I just walked around and photographed some of the burnt out houses, then I photographed what had been lovely bush behind our place, as you can see it is now just black earth with some of the smaller trees left.
In the blackened earth I found several lizards all obviously burnt to death. I have also not seen a single snake, I assume that the fire moved so quickly that they were all burnt to death, as I am not at all fond of snakes I hope that this is the case.
In the area surrounding Canberra there are estimated to be 150,000 kangaroos, they were finding it hard to find feed before the fire, due to the drought, now it will be impossible, so I guess those that don't die of starvation will come into the suburbs to eat gardens at night time, and as a consequence will probably end up as road kill.