The day Durranbah burned

It has taken me a bit of time to compile and write. This is a long read so I hope you can get to the end. I realise that you probably are wondering what is Duranbah? Here is the front gate to Durranbah which is the name of my property.
180424_blog challenge_which way_home gate
When you drive down my road here is the sign that greets you to let you know you are at your destination.IMG_2114

Let me take you back a while. OK to go back around three years when the last of the big rains happened. These rains are quite the norm for here. You can set you calendar by the storm season. Come October the dry season breaks and the rains commence and continue until March to May and sometimes June can have a wet year.

Back then the lack of rain three years ago wasn’t such a big thing. We often have some dry early Summers and come February or March, the rains come. March is usually the best time to start planting trees and other environmental restoration projects as the rain comes and the deep soil moisture assists in maintaining the plantings over the usually dry Winters. This is the same for a household garden which gets established and flourishes in Spring. But I digress as this is to establish a bit of the climatic changes that has happened over the past three years.

In August, the fires started. In September more fires started to occur. And then in October I was given word that fallen power lines had started a fire a few kilometers away and the current winds wasn’t bringing the fire to here but to be ready just in case. That evening the Rural Fire Service (RFS) did a back burn along the road. By November the fires had almost surrounded my place.

Things have never gotten any better and I have been on fire watch  as November carried on. Over this time there has been heavy smoke throughout the atmosphere and by November I had been breathing smoke for over a month.

Throughout the end of the month, the helicopters had started, sometimes flying over my house as the conveyed water from water sources to fires nearby.

The sunsets became surreal.
sun_fire_sky_smoke_named_home_jackadgery_oct 2019
As did the sunrisessun_smoke_fire_named_home_jackadgery_nov 2019

Sometimes the sunsets were just total orange with a glow spot where the sun was.
sunrise_fire_orange_named_home_jackadgery_nov 2019
Here we are at my place. There was a smokey haze. Yes I live in the bush or in a forest for my OS readers. Due to the drought over the past three years the Eucalypts are under stress and their defense mechanism is to drop leaves and branches. I commenced trying to minimise the effects of the leaves on the ground but where do I put what I rake up?
There is a shed on the left, my home in the middle and a playhouse I built for my girls on the left. Other sheds and infrastructure is hidden behind the house.
front drive_durranbah_blog_fire_post_nov 2019
This is what my place looks like from the front gate. More photos of this view will follow.front bush_durranbah_blog_fire_post_nov 2019
Looking down the power line clearing to the house next door when the smoke was a constant in my life. More photos of this view will follow.front powerline_durranbah_blog_fire_post_nov 2019

Here is what I call the house dam. This is where I get water for my gardens and around the house. I have stopped pumping from here months ago but do have a header tank which gravity feeds back down the hill so I don’t have to start the pump when I have to water the garden. The dam has never been this low since it was built around 30 years ago. A lack of rainfall over the past three years has contributed to this dilemma especially over the past two years.
dam_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The sounds and sights of helicopters has been a constant in my life over three months. These wonderful pilots just go back and forth delivering water to the fire front, sometimes over my home.helicopter_water_close_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Some evenings the smoke is quite visible as it drifts over my place blown by strong westerly winds.smoke_sky_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
In early December the sunsets started to become much redder which did not bode well.sunset_red_trees_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
At the start of December the large Kaloe Mountain Trail fire jumped the Gwydir Highway during very strong westerly winds. Once the fire was on my side of the highway, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the fire made it’s way here. When the double helicopters were flying overhead I knew that it wouldn’t be long before it was here.helicopters_two_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
On Friday the 6th December I was talking to my mate Wayne on the phone and I said that that smoke doesn’t look good and I would have to go and repack my car with my stuff just in case. The RFS came down the street and advised everyone it was almost time to go. I waited as long as I could and I had a few phone calls where everyone told me to go. The neighbours were heading out so I joined in and started to go out along road, my escape plan, to Copmanhurst Pub.smoke_house_close_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
On the way I looked back and saw the huge plume of smoke that had probably engulfed my place already. My daughter works in the kitchen at the pub so I went back to her place for the night. Some of the neighbours across the road stayed and I got some updates from them. I didn’t know whether I still had a home as I drove back on Saturday morning.smoke_lilydale_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
As I drove down the road I could see the rook of my house and sheds through the trees. I came down the drive and saw the blacked landscape either side of the driveand around the huseplayhouse_shed_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Looking along the power lines to the neighbours placepowerline view_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019

Even in the afternoon logs and stumps were still alight and a RFS truck kept patrol along the road.fire truck_trees_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The ever present helicopters were still controlling fires that were still burning.helicopter_water_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The house dam. The RFS blokes who were here made sure my poly pipes didn’t burn so I still have water to the house garden from the header tanks.dam_burnt_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The smoke is so heavy I was unable to get out and have a good look around. All the next few days trees could be heard crashing down.driveway_smoke_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019

This is a close as I have been to the lower part of my property. My place is the unburnt piece of ground under the power lines with the bush burnt either side. The tyre track are the RFS trucks and the electricity company vehicles trying restore the power on the place next door. I was without power and phone for almost 48 hours.
property_view4_lower_powerline_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
A few days later the helicopters were heading over my place and towards the rear of the properties across the road as the wind fanned the flames once more.helicopter_close_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
One helicopter sounded a siren as I was heading to a pile of sticks that were still burning near the unburnt patch around my house. I stopped and then whoosh a torrent of water was delivered which quelled the fire and wet the area around so the fire couldn’t spread.helicopters_water_bomb_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
This big Ironbark log has been burning non-stop until this afternoon when a fire truck came along and put it out as a southerly wind had blown up which could have sent embers across the road towards the unburnt properties.  ironbark log_burning_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Some days the smoke was unbearable. My health has been affected by the smoke.smoke_powerlines_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The only infrastructure causality, a small aluminum garden shed that had a few things stored, tools that I only occasionally used plus some building materials, windows etc.tin_shed_burnt_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Most of my place looks like this.property_view1_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
A tree across the track that stopped me from going further. A lot of the trees are still unstable so it will be a while before I can go back into the forest.property_view2_fallen tree_track_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
This is what I see from my office.property_view3_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019

This fire has burnt areas of my place that have never have been burnt so furiously in the past. Three years of a lack of substantial rain has led to no moisture in the soil, under logs and in the leaf litter on the forest floor. The heat that was generated has burnt everything. The logs that were home to a multitude of animals and insects have gone. The big hollow log where the Dingo had her pups is gone. The old stump that had the notches where the tree fellers put the boards and stood and chopped with axes is gone. The grass trees that were over two meters tall hundreds of years old are gone.

When I went out to cut firewood earlier this year I could see through the forest as the understory had almost gone with the drought. I could see parts of the landscape that I could never see. Now even that has gone and I can see through to other sides of gullies that I never could. In those gullies rainforest species were coming back.

I hope many of the animals and birds moved across the road to safety. I have many different birds around the garden which is one of my only pleasures. I have bough specialised food for the Wallabies but am yet to see the Betongs or Bandicoots and other small mammals.

The land will recover but I will never again see it as wonderful as I have in the over thirty years I have lived here and nurtured this land.

I still cry for my country.

112 thoughts on “The day Durranbah burned

      1. Yes the smoke has gone mostly. There is a bit still burning around the place so wafts of smoke come but not the wholesale thick heavy smoke thank goodness. I still have a bit of a cough.

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  1. I am so saddened to read your post Brian. The devastation is heart breaking. I’m so glad you and your home are safe and trying not to think of those little creatures that you care for and love. From sweltering and smokey Perth, with you in thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I write this with a large lump in my throat. Obviously it’s difficult to truly comprehend what you and many other Australians are experiencing, my heart goes out to you all and I pray for recovery. The important thing is that you’re safe for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m saddened… No rain for 3 years, that is unbearable. Glad you are safe and your home saved. It’s heart broken to see these after images, and what you are facing… Hope animals and birds have escaped to safe places. They will miss your garden…

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    1. It is not that it hasn’t rained Amy, it is the rainfall hasn’t been as much as in previous years. I should have made that a bit clearer I guess. I still have a bit of a garden and I am trying to keep water to as much as I can. I miss my usual abundant garden as well

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  4. It is heartbreaking to read this Brian, we know how much you’ve cared for the trees and wildlife around your home and we hope the animals have found their way to safety. We’re so glad you’re safe and hope the rains will come and stop the fires from spreading any further and clear the smoke. Sending love and prayers your way from the Highlands xxx

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  5. I know how you loved the place, Brian, so I am truly sorry for the destruction, but looking at what remains I can only feel that you are pretty lucky to have escaped with your life. You have been living in a tinder trap. Eucalypts here are being removed because they burn so very easily. Your property seems enormous! It will recover, hon- surely there’s nothing left to burn? I don’t know how near your neighbours are, but I’m sure you must look out for each other. It will be a long while before things are back to normal. Our planet has enormous resources when it comes to recovery. Whether you will recover as well? That I don’t know! I can feel your tears.

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    1. Luckily everyones houses are safe and nothing burned across the road so there is some refuge. Now the leaves on the trees are dead so a fire can race through the tops of the trees still. The Gums do burn quite well as they produce oil, some trees more than others. It is a daily sight and will be for years. Rain will bring about a quick recovery in the short term. I have my oasis Thank you Jo xx

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  6. You live in such a beautiful area, and it’s sad to see such devastation happen. Thank goodness your house was spared, and you and your family are okay. Hope the little animals all found safe places to relocate for the time being.

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  7. This is one of the most heart-breaking posts I’ve ever read Brian. I am so glad that you are safe, and have a home, but it is terrible to see what has been lost — and even worse to worry about the fate of wildlife that can’t be seen. I hope you continue to have community support — and hope against Hope that rain arrives. However unlikely that may be.

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    1. Thank you very much Su. I am so apprehensive about looking at the rest of my property. Even last night another tree crashed to the ground so it’s not safe out there. I appreciate your thinking of me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a dramatic and sad narrative, Brian. So sorry for the losses to your land. Seeing the photos really brings your situation to life for those of us far removed. Thoughts are with you and wishing you much strength and resilience (and rain) as the recovery begins.

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  9. on Brian 😦 it is so so sad and you still have the summer to get through. Really hope the magic happens in the next 6 weeks and that there are proper rains, so nature can start its incredible regeneration story. As you say though it is going to be quite a few years before it returns to how it was, but hopefully there may be some unexpected regeneration delights on the way.

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    1. Thank you Becky. I am awaiting some rain to assist with the rebuilding of my environment. Just going outside brings tears as I see the devastation all around. I went a bit further into the bush near home where it looked safer and so many trees have fallen which will be the start of a new generation. It will take time for me to mentally adjust I am sure xx

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  10. I see what you mean and am sorry I missed this post earlier. Words cannot express what you must have been and are going through. Writing the story down is important so that it is recorded and so that others will understand the complexity and depth of the problem. The bush will recover, but how long it will take depends utterly on the climate and the weather. The compounding effect of lesser and lesser rain means the ecosystem will be out of balance – no food for any animals that did survive. The situation is dire. We are entering uncharted waters in the enviromental history of Australia and it is a sneak peek of what will happen in years to come if we cannot turn things around in the next ten years. I will re-blog this post so that others can read this. Keep writing about it, Bushboy. Keep writing.

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    1. Thank you Amanda. I have written a number of posts already as fires have become my life. Writing has helped my mental state for sure. This is uncharted territory so watching my place grow again will be a few posts x

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      1. That is good to hear. Let us how you don’t need to leave again. If only those severe winds would die down and cooler weather prevail. I worry for LeggyPeggy’s beachhouse at Rosedale.

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      2. If the Grange fire, still burning, gets away and swings around back this way I’ll will stay as it’s only a small patch to defend. I try not to watch or read fire news in the rest of Aust as see others plights and sometimes start crying. Emotions boil over

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      3. I can well understand that. I had to turn the radio off as it was sounded so traumatic and I am not under threat atm. Constant warnings, and discussion re governmental response or lack thereof was not fun to hear. What do you think the authorities would be best to do in response, next year?

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      4. Actually have a plan would be a start.
        Listen to the experts and act.
        Actually fund the agencies with the amount they need.
        Think of the people not the money.
        Actually buy the aircraft that can douse flames so the people don’t have to be put at risk.
        Fund the environmental groups to be able to assist landowners to rehabilitate their lands without having an economic outcome as the goal of handing out funds.
        Be nice to people.
        Oh dear that should do for now.
        Have a great day Amanda. Thanks for the reblog. A lot of people have written already Brian xx

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  11. I found your blog through Forestwood’s reblog.

    My heart breaks for you. I have a few friends in Australia and it has been so difficult to watch all this unfold. I will share your blog to help increase awareness. I am following you now so I can stay abreast of your personal situation.

    I live in a forest area in the U.S. so I understand how fast fire spreads in dry land. My thoughts are with you and your country and our world at large. This is a global problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This was so heartbreaking to read and I cannot even begin to imagine what you must be going through. Good to know that you and your house are safe. Be safe and hopefully it will get better with the rains. It is saddening and worrisome thinking about the future of our planet if some concrete steps are not taken..it’s already too late though. Thank you for writing this…it’s one thing to see these on the news and different to know it like this. Best wishes for a better year for you and your loved ones.

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  13. Yours is the only personal story of the nightmare of these fires I’ve come across and I’m glad about that: it makes such unhappy reading.
    It wouldn’t be quite so unhappy if we could think that our illustrious elders were going to take steps to deal with climate change on account of it – and all the other, unread stories.
    But you’re on your own – you and the helipcopters and the firies. I wish you all the luck in the world with finding your topographical and emotional way back.

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  14. I hardly know what to say other than I am so sorry. We have been watching the news reports about Australia burning and it touched our souls. We have had so many floods recently (Houston area) but they are never as bad as fire even if you lose your property. We had a drought about 10 years ago and I will never forget the smoke on the air as the forest fires grew closer. Our fire personnel are saints, going out again and again to help douse the flames.
    My thoughts are with you,K x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kerry 🙂 Fire men and women have come from around the world including the US to help us. Yes with floods stuff can be washed clean and straightened, fire everything goes. Thank you for your thoughts xx

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  15. Thank you for sending the link of this post, Brian. I’m late to read this. My heart goes out to you, your forest, your garden and all the wonderful creatures living in the garden. It will take years for your property to recover.
    There was a forest fire near my daughter’s home. I went with her and her family to a gathering in the park one day. The sky was still smoky and filtered the sun’s ray. I could look right at the sun. I took some photos look like some of yours. People in the surrounding area wore masks outdoor. They were advised to close all the windows and stay home as much as they could after work or school.
    It has been a month since you wrote this post. I hope the sky is cleared a bit by now. I hope the birds come back to your garden soon!

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  16. I’m sorry |I missed this post. A sobering tale of the crisis in your country. I am just glad you and the other Australians I know are safe. And I hope the land will recover in time. As for the loss of the wildlife and human life, well there are no words.

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    1. Thank you Jude. Things are getting better although the last few days of 40C heat hasn’t helped much. Hopefully an afternoon storm today.
      Writing helped me get through a terrible few months ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The south coast of NSW burnt as well. People had to flee into the sea to escape the fires. Same as in my part of NSW, the coastal people had their towns burn befoire the fire struck here.

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