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Time to take care of our community in a bushfire emergency

Karyn Starmer 6 January 2020 1

The Deua fire glows over the Moruya River. Image: Karyn Starmer

Karyn Starmer is Region Media’s business writer. She and her family live just outside Moruya.

With our immediate emergency over, we make our way back home from our evacuation point in town. The sky is a dark yellow and a southerly wind is fanning fires all around. We are safe for now but we will need to remain on alert.

As I write, our towns in the Eurobodalla have no power, no food, no TV and many have no phone or internet.

The power will be restored to the major centres first, for others it will be weeks. Grocery trucks are to escorted into the shire, not today, we hope tomorrow but no one knows for sure. Many residents are down to two minute noodles and an old tin of tuna. Nappies and tampons are scarce, there is no dairy, no bread.

The communication tower on Mt Wandera is a molten pile of metal and wire meaning it will be weeks until TV and full internet service is restored.

With the Princes Highway closed, we can’t travel north and no post or deliveries will be able to come south. The Brown Mountain road is closed, the Victorian border is blocked and the Kings Highway is now even more weeks away from being opened.

We are hearing horrifying news and pictures of the destruction all around us but we can’t see it for ourselves as we can’t travel, even local roads are closed. Homes, schools, business, whole hamlets have been burned.  I can’t bring myself to think too hard about our farms, forests and wildlife, those images, those thoughts will have come later.

What I do know now is that what was our normal is now past. Every trip to visit a friend, to the shops or run an errand will mean missing a familiar streetscape or business.

Our lives will roll on but in a different way now.

I worry there are not enough rental properties to accommodate those who have lost their homes. That businesses already in survival mode may be knocked down with no summer trade. How will our shire find its’ feet and flourish again?

There’s nothing like packing your possessions in preparation to abandon your house to the mercy of a bushfire to sharpen your vision and priorities. As you pick out items you cannot risk, you begin to see everything else as just stuff. Only work clothes and basics made it into the bag.

Water bombing aircraft refilling from the Moruya River. Photo: Karyn Starmer

While we make our way through summer, remembering we still have two months to go, I hope everyone else can stop and have a think too, about what they truly want to prioritise in their lives.

Modern emergencies bring a wealth of information, with detailed weather, wind and images of fire hot spots at our fingertips we can run our own fire control centre from our phones.

We have been running on adrenaline and worry these past weeks and now we are wound into knots tightened by constant checking of radio, apps, websites, social media pages, messages and conversations. This must all eventually take a toll and we risk breaking and ceasing to be a community if we aren’t mindful.

With the cooler conditions maybe now is the time to take a mental break and slow down. Not everything needs to be shared, not every question answered and not every demand met. Maybe pause before you speak or type.

Unfortunately, we are all in this for the long haul. This summer, next summer, on it will go. Resilience and patience must be our goals and remember if you break, find a friend, find some support, please ask for help. Together we will find the strength we all need.

More information on support in the event of a natural disaster visit Lifeline


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One Response to Time to take care of our community in a bushfire emergency
Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 8:30 pm 06 Jan 20

I really understand that comment “only work clothes and basics made it into the bag, everything else is just stuff... “ I went through that in 2003. Also again on the weekend, my bag is still packed near the front door... everything else IS just stuff!

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