In all the years we’ve lived in the country we’ve never had an emergency, that is, until one night a few weeks back when we looked out the kitchen window and saw a raging fire in the back paddock. Fortunately it was an empty paddock, unfortunately there’d been no stock on it for two years and as a consequence the grass was long, dry and ripe for any spark or lightning strike. The flames were totally out of control! I can tell you there is nothing more dramatic than flames leaping up towards the heavens against a pitch black sky!
Hubby took immediate charge, rang the local brigade, then grabbed what he could to fight the flames and was out there within minutes. I on the other hand started panicking ~ I was in complete shock! I did have the presence of mind though to turn on all the outside lights so the fire trucks would have no trouble finding us. It took about 20 minutes for the brigades to arrive ~ three huge tankers tore up the drive, crashed through the fence and up into the paddock. And I can tell you 20 minutes is a bloody long time when there’s an out of control fire raging on your property. Every second seems like forever! The relief though, when they got here was unbelievable! You just know it’ll all be OK when the fire brigade arrives. There wouldn’t be anyone in Australia who isn’t aware of how amazing these guys are, giving of their time, energy and expertise to ensure the community remains safe, but we don’t really realise how much we rely on them until something like this happens.
You might ask, why three tankers? We have no town water and they had to be sure they had enough on hand to do the job quickly, and that they did. As luck would have it there was no wind that night and the fire was out within half an hour. Then afterwards we enjoyed what is typical of all rural volunteer fire brigade get-togethers ~ a good catch up. They all stood around in the paddock for the better part of an hour, and had a good old chin-wag and told a few yarns. It was all so friendly and I was so thankful, I felt like putting on a few snags and cup of tea! One of the volunteers was a new recruit and this was apparently his first fire. In typical Aussie style, when the fire was out they rolled him in the black ashes to initiate his uniform! Why miss an opportunity to have a bit of fun?
During the friendly chat we discovered the real sequence of events that night. As it goes when you live in the country, everyone looks out for everyone else, especially when it comes to fires. Apparently a neighbour saw the flames long before we did and called it in, as did one of the firies who left his uncooked dinner of chicken fillets on the kitchen bench hoping his cat wouldn’t devour them before he got back! Unbeknown to us he rushed over, banged on both the front and back doors, but as we were closeted in the warmth of the lounge with everything closed up he couldn’t raise us. Thinking we weren’t home, he got on with the job, organised two local brigades, fetched his gear from the fire shed and then it was back to our place.
Of course when it was all over they wanted to know how it started, and that was the worst bit ~ it was all, our fault! Ashes from the fireplace, which hubby thought were dead, were in fact still hot. When you live in the country, at some time or other you come into contact with your local volunteer brigade. We were no exception. Hubby was in fact the Vice President of the local brigade at our previous residence so he felt like a right git having inadvertently started the fire, particularly as he was the one who trained the locals for years about fire safety! The end result though was not nearly as dramatic as it could have been. The fire only burned out 1000 square metres of grass ~ about the size of two or three house blocks in today’s residential subdivisions, took out a small part of the back fence plus some of the above ground bore water pipes.
Later that night when we rang the plumber, who lives 20 kilometres up the road, the first thing he said was, “So you’re the ones responsible for all the smoke!” There’s no such thing as mincing words when it comes to country folk! And then there’s the grapevine, which not only works incredibly fast in a small country town, it can also work its magic. As I said, country folk always lend a hand and there’s nothing like a fire in an empty paddock to get things moving. The next morning we had a neighbour on our doorstep offering his sheep to sort out the long grass. The following day our ‘friendly sheep farmer’ delivered the fencing wire, and today he’s installing it … should be all sorted by next weekend.
We’re fairly new to the area in which we now live, and really hadn’t met many people apart from a neighbour or two and the owners of the local stores. Accidently starting a fire is not the best way to meet the locals, but certainly the best way to feel part of the community spirit of what living in the country is all about. The firies did what they do best, we had the opportunity to feel immense gratitude, the local brigades received a decent donation, and our paddock will be getting organically fertilized and mowed.
Inara Hawley © 2013