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After the bushfires

Amanda Mackinnon

Amanda Mackinnon

January 21, 2013

Wow, what a crazy start to 2013. It seems just about everyone you speak to at the moment has a story relating to fire. Either bushfires that have recently threatened their own homes, businesses, or those of family and friends.

View of the Dunalley fire from my street

View of the Dunalley fire from my street

I live in a beautiful little corner of Tasmania, just outside of Hobart. We’re just 20 minutes down the road from Dunalley – the Tassie town that bore the brunt of the fires 2 weeks ago. This gorgeous little seaside hamlet lost more than 65 homes in an intense inferno that arose out of catastrophic conditions on January 4. Hobart recorded its highest temperature ever since record keeping began in 1883 – 41.8C.

Dodges Ferry is quite close to Dunalley

We had our own unsettling night the evening Dunalley residents lost their town, as the fire raced towards our beachside community of Dodges Ferry. Our suburb was evacuated late Friday evening and I retreated with the kids to stay with relatives in Hobart. My husband, who is a firefighter, stayed to watch the house and to help out on the front line. Driving off in the care I left him with the strict instructions to “look after the garden!” I’m sure it was the last thing on his mind.

Lucky for us, a weather change shortly after midnight saw our suburb saved.
When we returned the following day the prognosis was still unclear and the entire area was eerily quite. We spent 2 or 3 days on alert and watching the water bombers over head. It was a little surreal to sit on the beach with the kids and the skies be filled with so much smoke and the sound of helicopter blades.

Blackened trees and thick ash bed left by bushfire

Blackened trees and thick ash bed left by bushfire

The people of Dunalley, and other towns like it around the country, are now faced with the exhausting task of rebuilding – of course not just their homes but their gardens and their communities as well. Despite losing everything, the spirit to rebuild is extraordinarily high and the community is very positive. Plans to ensure Dunalley School can open again in a couple of weeks are well under way, despite the gym being the only building still standing. In times of crisis it’s comforting to experience how the community pulls together.

Only a few plants were heat scorched

Only a few plants were heat scorched

Over this period my garden was abandoned for a few days – bigger fish to fry – and it was interesting to see what survived the extended hot period. I have planted quite a lot of new things over recent months and was expecting some to have turned up their noses at the conditions. It was relieving to see that when I finally got a chance to do an examination of the garden nearly everything had survived. Really just a couple of plants had some scorched leaves, but I didn’t lose a single plant! Having watered the garden the evening of the hottest day, perhaps this worked a treat?

I would be interested to hear your own tales with fire. And where do we start in supporting those who have to begin their garden again? Do you have any suggestions that we could use here in Tassie?

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Catherine Stewart
11 years ago

What a relief that you and yours are all safe and well! That thick coating of ash is going to be real challenge to those who were fortunate not to lose their homes but had their gardens burned. We know that our native bush is adapted to this ‘trial by fire’ but I wonder how the exotic plants that survived the fire will cope, or whether that soil needs to be rehabilitated before replanting?

Julie Thomson
11 years ago

A terrifying ordeal for you Amanda. And amidst all the fear and drama , I loved your plea to your husband to look after the garden!
How amazing you didn’t lose anything in all the heat! For others less fortunate, I know fire can be cleansing and stimulating for garden regrowth, but sure there will be big repairs and cleanups beforehand.
Many heartaches ahead and I feel v shallow complaining about our hot conditions in Qld , which were nothing to what poor Tasmanians went through.

11 years ago

Australia is certainly a land of contrasts. It must be heartbreaking to see your garden washed away by floods or burnt by bushfire. It makes me realise my gardens problems are nothing by contrast.