I ended my Christmas newsletter sending heartfelt thoughts to all in fire ravaged areas, little knowing that it was to be Mallacoota’s turn on Tuesday Dec 31! Our New Year became a blur of property protection and chaos. Then we faced a similar fear on Saturday Jan 4 when the sky again turned black, then red, as smoke from other East Gippsland fires swept through on a wind change.
Our house and workshop emerged unscathed, twice! Not much ember attack in this part of town but areas backing onto bush were badly impacted and houses were lost – around 100.
I don’t need to go into details because I believe the media picked up on Mallacoota’s unique isolation and ran with the drama of 4,000 people taking refuge on the beach and the subsequent evacuations of visitors, elderly and vulnerable in the following days by sea and air. Our plight even hit the New York Times!
The following Guardian article and images by a talented local journalist, Rachel Mounsey, express more than words can say about the experience.
In the collage of images at the top of this email…starting from the left:
1. Checking messages and emergency app with fire gear on waiting for fire to hit.
2. Broken water bowl at my friends’ garden. They lost their house but birds are still visiting the bowls of water we’ve put out amidst the devastation.
3. We got some sleep overnight and woke to a brief dawn that turned quickly and progressively to pitch blackness as thick smoke and ash descended. At 7am it was like nighttime, as the fire devastated houses on the edge of town.
4. The sign outside ‘Salt’, a shop in town owned by Courtney and Mark, who lost their Banksia Mudbrick Units and home.
5. Don the magnificent! Not only does he love my Sooty Owl T-shirt but he used to be props manager for Opera Victoria and has been running the evacuation/relief centre at the community hall, co-ordinating sound, set-up, supplies and aid. When Max and I turned up to help, he said “We are the glue! We just connect people to people, services and goods”. Onya Don, it was a privilege to work beside you for 2 weeks.
6. At the relief centre post-fire, we suddenly realised the sun had emerged! First time thick smoke had dispersed since the fire. Was blissful to feel the sun and breathe clean air again!
We lost power for 2 weeks but electricity has been restored via generators until the road is open from Melbourne for big trucks to replace power poles. Alison Green Designs is up and running again – business as usual. Thank you to everyone who has ordered and have been waiting patiently for Aust Post to restore service, which is not far off.
Please note that any orders received now will be packed straight away but may take a bit longer than usual to arrive. Things are slowly returning to normal and I expect to be able to post in a week’s time.
A recovery committee is forming that will involve a cross-section of community members to facilitate the rebuild and resurrection of Mallacoota, which will emerge stronger than ever. Love this community. Loved it before but totally love the resilience and kindness I have witnessed since the fire. The People’s Republic of Mallacoota salutes you!
Cheers and good wishes for 2020 (the year of good vision!)