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.
When you drive down my road here is the sign that greets you to let you know you are at your destination.
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.
As did the sunrises
Sometimes the sunsets were just total orange with a glow spot where the sun was.
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.
This is what my place looks like from the front gate. More photos of this view will follow.
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.
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.
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.
Some evenings the smoke is quite visible as it drifts over my place blown by strong westerly winds.
In early December the sunsets started to become much redder which did not bode well.
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.
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.
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.
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 huse
Looking along the power lines to the neighbours place
Even in the afternoon logs and stumps were still alight and a RFS truck kept patrol along the road.
The ever present helicopters were still controlling fires that were still burning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some days the smoke was unbearable. My health has been affected by the smoke.
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.
Most of my place looks like this.
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.
This is what I see from my office.
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.