We are on bushfire alert today here in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Extremely hot weather forecast for today may see my corner of the lower Blue Mountains go up in flames. I hope not, but I have cleaned the gutters and the roof, raked the leaves away from buildings and structures, moved any fire hazards and had the sprinkler on the parched garden beds and lawns around the house to try to protect the house.
The valuables are packed (except for this computer I am writing this on). Even the pugs are on high alert.
Yesterday afternoon and through night rain fell – not heavy drenching rain, but there was one overnight thunderstorm – and this morning there were puddles on our driveway. My watering from yesterday and the rain means things are not as dry as they were and the deciduous trees around the house are in green leaf.
The firefighters are saying the rain won’t be enough to quench the fires, but it certainly is making me feel better. Before this the ground was so dry it crackled when you walked on it.
My plan today, which is forecast to be hot (34C), windy (winds gusting up to 70km per hour) and very low humidity (below 20 per cent), is to keep wetting down the ground around the house and to fill the clean gutters with water. I am also going to thoroughly soak the ground around my chook shed as, if I have to evacuate I can’t take the chooks. I will just let them free range. This may seem harsh, but I can’t take eight chooks and one rooster anywhere and a trip in hot conditions may kill them anyway.
This is not the first fire we have faced here in this fire-prone part of Sydney. We used to live about 10km from here in an area of Kurrajong known as Blaxland Ridge. It is on the edge of the Wollemi State Forest and due east of the fire hotspots of Mountain Lagoon and Mount Irvine in the mountains.
Back in 2000 the fire burnt through our property on Christmas Day in 2000. My husband Jim was home by himself that day. He let the chooks out and soaked the area around their shed and the garden and reported later that even when the flames were surging overhead the chooks pecked around oblivious of the fire storm. So I am hoping these chooks will have the same luck. Our house, sheds, garden, nursery and paddocks also survived unscathed although the bush was burnt.
The main problem back then, as it will be today, is ember attack. Burning embers falling ahead of the fire front start spot fires, which can destroy buildings and property even without the main fire.
The worst thing about today is waiting for the unknown. Here, in this part of Kurrajong (a small suburb called Kurmond), we are not on a traditional fire path but if the fire comes it is most likely to burn in from the west or southwest. To the west of me is the village of Kurrajong and beyond that the settlements of Bowen Mountain and Kurrajong Heights. To the southwest is Grose Vale and the Springwood fire front.
My plan, if the winds are blowing from the west and there is fire at either Bowen Mountain or Kurrajong Heights, is to load up the dogs and drive to my daughter’s house at Richmond.
But I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that.