a few words from Peter of Quaama

The Beagle Editor,

For anyone interested, this is our story:

We consider ourselves to be among the very lucky ones.

We still have a house.

Today ( Sat, Jan 18th, 2020) is our 19th day without power, and therefore no running water - no water to shower, no water to flush toilets, no power to wash clothes, no easily accessible water to feed the cattle - and yesterday we were told it will be another 10 days before power is restored! We have been driving a 70km round trip every second day to Bega to have showers and collect water and provisions. We now have a borrowed generator (thank you VERY MUCH, Sue), which now makes life somewhat tolerable and, with enormous assistance from some wonderful neighbours, are spending our days trying to install new fences around the property.

But, there were once 5 houses in our road. 2 were totally destroyed. We (and 2 other neighbours) had the fire come right up to our house walls, and (with fire fighting pumps and fire fighting hoses; in our case purchased just 4 weeks ago!) successfully fought off the fires which, as a neighbor described them, was like being in a war zone. Everything (including 30 or 40 metre high trees) now around us is totally black - not so much from the fire but from the heat from the fire. No firies came to our assistance (we had been warned that their resources were limited and we should not expect any assistance; so that's just a fact, not any sort of criticism) - although one fire fighter did, heroically, come in at the very height of the fire and successfully evacuated a neighbor and her 5 kids in his 4WD - we're going to try to ensure he receives a bravery award (that neighbour's house was, unfortunately, completely destroyed).

If confronted with the same situation, we would have done some things slightly differently, but our overall decision to stay and fight the fire was, we believe, the correct decision.

The response to the fires has been amazing. One one hand, almost any help (like bottled water, like breakfast cereals [anyone want hundreds of packets of breakfast cereal - our local recovery centre can provide them??] we might need is available locally. However, it's apparent the 'authorities' have absolutely no idea how to handle such a situation. Every organization and their dog (for example, we had 8 officials in 4 vehicles visit us, and all our neighbours, yesterday - and ours is a relatively unscathed property - 18 days after the fire!!; and that's a typical day!) has been in to 'inspect' our property and our neighbours' properties (and take notes, and then do absolutely, absolutely, absolutely nothing - we've now been trying for 18 days to get one of them to simply cut down a now-extremely dangerous tree on our road - half Australia's Army (with chain saws) was lined up on our road yesterday, but they and no-one else will actually do anything helpful, like simply remove that tree!!)

And, we're absolutely applauding the locals in Cobargo who expressed their total lack of support from and disgust for PM Morrison when he visited recently.

We're now spending our days trying to re-erect fences around the property...and are praying for rain (we've had virtually none so far). And we'd really like the power to be reconnected!

Little things (apart from having no power, no water) are our main frustration: for example, we subscribe to receive paper copies of the Sydney Morning Herald but that useless organization has delivered [to our local store; we have to pick up copies from them] virtually no copies since December 30th. The roads are now (and have been for weeks) open, but the local store (inexplicable) now receives NO deliveries from them, and that useless media organization has made NO efforts to try to keep those locally who have been affected by fires informed (which is important when you have little power, and therefore no TV or radio). Phone calls to their circulation department only receive promises of 'I'll look into it and get back to you' but nothing ever eventuates!!! (recommendation: don't subscribe to or purchase the SMH). We (and our neighbours) can provide numerous other examples of no help being received when help is needed or requested, and numerous other examples of organisations not helping us at all to rapidly return our lives to normal.

Anyone want to purchase a severely damaged Hyundai i30???

The day after the fires, we had a visit from the police who had discovered a (very friendly, absolutely terrific) dog on the property of the family next door (the ones with 5 kids who had been rescued at the height of the fire). Could we look after it???

Helen drove to the local store to buy a can of dog food. On her return, she was stopped by a big tree that had fallen across our road. She gets out of the car, intending to walk home, and, within a minute, two other adjacent trees fall down - one of them right on the middle of our car [which, I strongly suspect, is a write off - 18 days later we're still awaiting an assessor to come from Bega - just 30 km away - to confirm this. Really great service, despite numerous promises, thank you Allianz!!!)

I can't help thinking the 'climate debate' is focusing on absolutely the wrong thing.

We must now accept that bushfires are part of Australia's environment and we should now be focusing on how WE (every one of us) can best deal with them. It seems that the Aboriginals were very wise, regularly controlled burning their environment (if you need convincing, ask your local library to get you a copy of 'The Australian Landscape – Observations of Explorers and Early Settlers' by DG Ryan, JE Ryan and BJ Starr), and we need to start SIGNIFICANTLY increasing controlled burning in the cooler months [in the past 10 years the area controlled burned each year has halved in NSW - that says something!!!]. I'd also suggest that ALL roads should be viewed as potential fire breaks and that we should reduce the height of trees/shrubs on both side of roads (it's ridiculous if we want to contain fires, for example, to have, along long stretches of the Princes Highway, the canopies of very tall trees on both sides of the road touching) and should regularly control burn the understorey along this corridor - so the firies have, at least, some fighting chance of controlling fires when they occur. And I find it amazing that we are employing people, in the very height of bushfires, to create firebreaks (at very great peril to themselves) or to undertake backburning when, in the cooler months, these activities could have more efficiently been undertaken, so that when the inevitable fires do occur we are somewhat better prepared to manage them.

Finally, thanks to all those who have spent many hours fighting these incredibly fierce fires...and absolutely no thanks to 'the useless authorities, the useless pen pushers'!