Jennifer StackhouseBushfires threaten my area

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.

Blue Mountains bushfire 2013

Photo by Sue Tapping of Wildwood Garden of the State Mine fire, near Bilpin NSW

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.

Blue Mountains bushfire 2013This 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.

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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

16 thoughts on “Bushfires threaten my area

  1. Ben on said:

    Best of luck Jennifer

  2. chris tonitto on said:

    Thinking of you …been caught in three bush fires in my life, like you, the last one on Christmas Day.
    Be safe and all gratitude to the Fire Fighters and all those volunteering and donating.

  3. Lenise McAuliffe on said:

    Jennifer, thinking of you as it pours not stop in Melbourne, all the best of luck. xx

  4. Karen on said:

    We are keeping an eye on those fires up in the mountains as we are about an hours drive from springwood. Hope every thing works out well today and the winds don’t cause too much havoc. Keep safe.

  5. Katie Stackhouse on said:

    Picturing the pugs in little hard hats patrolling the perimeters (of the kitchen!) x

  6. Karen S-R on said:

    Wish we could do more than send good wishes.

  7. Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

    Thanks everyone – winds picking up here and temp rising. I’ll keep you posted if anything develops.
    Best wishes
    Jennifer

  8. Thinking of you all. Have everything crossed for you that the winds and rising temperature are not as bad as feared or predicted.

  9. anne latreille on said:

    Fingers crossed Jennifer. Wish the chooks good luck for me.

  10. Good luck, a great article, so hard to imagine from damp Cambridge.

  11. Peter Goslett on said:

    May God bless and keep you, the pugs and the chooks!

  12. Lois on said:

    So sad to see all those beautiful areas burnt. Hope you escaped any damage and best luck for rest off fire season.

  13. Peter Goslett on said:

    How about an update? Is everything OK with you and yours? Please let us know.

  14. Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

    Update on the fires
    Here we are some two weeks on from the fires and I can finally report positive news. First the roads have reopened, which means most areas can now be safely accessed including Bells Line of Road between Bilpin and Lithgow and the Darling Causeway which runs from Bell to Mount Victoria. Visitors are welcome. The second piece of good news is that we’ve had rain. Not the torrential rain and hail seen along the coast, but rain which has dampened things down, pushed up the humidity and hopefully put out some of the fires. This morning the brown grass here looks a little greener and there are puddles. The rain has spread carpets of purple jacaranda flowers under all our trees. There are buds on the agapanthus. The chooks are well and the pugs have been stood down from fire-spotting duties. But until we have some steady soaking rain, the fires will continue to burn out there in the remote parts of the bush. Bring on the rain.

    • Petertt on said:

      I’m so glad to hear the good news! Thank Dog the pugs have been stood down. They must have been exhausted, poor little monkeys, and I’m happy to hear that some green is poking through. Ah I do miss the jacarandas! Good thoughts winging their way to you from The Big Apple!

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