In January 2020, I penned a few words in response to the Black Summer Bushfires which were raging across the East Coast of Australia. The article was intended to be a small offering of hope at a time when many Australians were feeling pain, anger and despair regarding the endless images flashed across our television screens.
You can find the previous story here – http://www.littlehillfarm.com.au/bushfires-in-australia-are-inevitable-but-there-is-always-a-future/
As many Western Australia will be aware on Saturday, 5 February 2022, the terror pictured in the enumerate images of 2020 came to the small south-west town of Bridgetown and the very back door of Little Hill Farm. The residents of the town and its surrounds were plunged into confusion, disbelief and high alert.
Just after lunch, Adam noticed a number of smoke plumes in the northly sky behind the farm. They were small at first but seemed to be growing in shape, size and number – changing from white to black very quickly. Although they appeared to be off in the distance towards the Greenbushes townsite some 10 km away, they continued to grow and spread further across the horizon and we knew that a bushfire was underway in the Shire.
Whether the fire would actually reach the farm was unknown at the time, but we thought it best to put our predetermined fire plan into action. In the short space of some 10 to 15 minutes whilst getting ourselves organised, the smoke clouds and plumes we had been monitoring in the far distance appeared to have approached much closer to the farm. They were huge and gave the impression that they were just over the back hill of the farm. We watched momentarily in both amazement and fright unable to turn away from the sight, when suddenly the sky was filled with all manner of flying craft, helicopters, spotter planes, various water bombers and two huge 737’s releasing red fire retardant at the fire’s source.
Both Adam and my mobile phones beeped simultaneously, alert us to an incoming message. The message was from DFES issuing an Emergency Warning Message for the residents of the nearby hamlet of Hester, some 10 km away – it told Hester residents that it was now too late to leave and that they needed to seek shelter in their homes. The message also went on to say other residents of the area should leave if it was safe to do so.
The initial message was quickly followed by a second, third and fourth message telling us to leave immediately as we were in imminent danger. We went back to the farmhouse, locked the front door and drove away. As we did so, we listened to the local ABC radio station which was filled with emergency information we also learnt what had transpired thus far. Rather than travel to the Emergency Evacuation Centre which had been established in the nearby town of Manjimup, we headed to Adam’s Godmother’s home which was in a safer part of the Shire, to help with her evacuate (if necessary) and to evaluate the situation.
The tiny hamlet of Hester had been decimated, the local Bridgetown sports grounds, emergency control centre and nearby rubbish dump had all been partially destroyed (all very close to the town centre), the local hospital and age care facility had been evacuated and countless spot fires had started in and around the town.
We spent some 10 hours with godmother in Glenlynn, watching the skies over the town fill with smoke, listening to the radio, checking the DFES website repeatedly and answering numerous messages and phone calls from worried family, friends and neighbours – wanting to know if we were okay.
At the height of the bushfire emergency, I snapped a few images of the smoke clouds over the town and in the morning, we posted them to facebook with a short message to family and friends saying that we were safe and not to worry. For some reason numerous news outlets and television stations had picked up the images and wanted to tell our story.
We wanted to share our bushfire experience and take this moment to thank the many volunteers and fire crews that kept the town, farms and us safe – thank you.