Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fire! Fire!

I really hate this time of the year … the beginning of Summer, when there’s plenty of undergrowth in the bush after a lush Winter/Spring, everything looks beautiful and is just dry enough to BURN!

Yesterday, Monday 10th December, I received a phone call at work that there was bush fire in the area behind our property … within 20 minutes I arrived home to prepare for the onslaught. From the minute I left work, some 20kms from home, I could see the huge cloud of smoke over Canning Vale … fighting peak hour traffic, the closer I got the more worried I became and my “self talk” was getting louder, reminding me to “stay calm, think clearly”.

I was mentally preparing myself for what I might (or might not) find … I knew that Mum had put all our dogs safely inside and all the kennel dogs in their kennels.

She had turned the bore on to wet the areas around the house and kennels, closed all the windows in case of embers burning the fly screens, turned the air conditioner water on and blower off.

The smoke was quite dense and thick as I approached; Crufts Way (the street behind our house) was blocked off by fire engines and police. The Emergency Response Unit was parked at the edge of the park and jammed packed with firemen, police and other officials. The water bomber helicopters were everywhere … the sounds of sirens, trucks and helicopters was echoing in the sky.

All I could see was black scrub across the back of the park ... where the fire had already been. Flames were licking up against the house at the end of the street.

I pulled into our driveway, leaving the gate open in case quick access was needed for anyone, leaving the keys in the car I rushed inside, changed into more practical clothes and checked with Mum to see what else we could do … how hopeless you feel when the threat of fire is so close and all you can do is prepare and wait. So many “what-if’s” go through your mind ...

People could see the flames behind our block, from the house up the hill in front of us. My biggest worry was the vacant block directly next door to us – it is dry grass and low scrub and has never been burnt.

We got crates out ready for the cats and the little dogs, in the case that we had to leave in a hurry. I still don’t know if I would actually leave if I had a choice … you just never know what you would do in that situation until you are faced with it, and my gut feeling is that I would choose to fight for my property unless it was absolutely hopeless, and there's no chance that I'd leave if I had to leave animals behind.

They were preparing to evacuate Crufts Way … apparently the fire had traveled through the bush behind all the properties on the Western side of Crufts Way and dogs had already been evacuated to homes on the opposite side of the road. There were so many emergency vehicles going back and forth, with little room for residents to get in and out with cars of dogs, etc., and this time of year most kennels are fully booked so full evacuation is a huge job.

Mum went around there with our little van to see if anyone needed help but there were lots of cars with dog floats already there … rather than clog up the road with another car she just let some residents know that we had some empty kennels that they could put their dogs in if needed, and she returned home.

It is nice to know that, in the case of an emergency, the dog community always pulls together to help move dogs, evacuate and accommodate other peoples animals. People from the Southern River kennel properties had arrived to move dogs to safety, even calling in on us to check if we needed anything.

Fortunately full evacuation was not required.

The fire was eventually contained and by around 7.30pm the fireys were mopping up, however trucks were still driving up and down the streets at 10.00pm … phew! that was close!

It’s comforting to know that these “hero’s”, our fire men and women, are so quick to respond and always prepared to risk their own safety to help save the lives of others. I don’t know how many trucks came but there seemed to be a never-ending stream of fire trucks coming and going all evening … the sound of helicopters and sirens is still echoing in my head.

A quick check on reality this morning, with a glance around our home and an extra hug to each of the dogs before leaving for work … I am so grateful for what I have.

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