Week 10, 2009
STORY OF THE WEEK
The Winner of the Readers' Choice Story of the Week
Your Story Bushfire Story has been chosen as the Winner of the Readers' Choice Story of the Week.
|In Melbourne, Victoria we are experiencing smoke-filled skies, the
pollution in the air making it hard to breathe. The smoggy skies and filtered
sunlight remind me of my trips to Calcutta in the 90s.
There's a fine black dust on
the garden. When I went to empty a vase which had stood in our house with
some roses in it for the past week, Constant's gift for my 6 February birthday, there was a sticky black-brown mark at the water level much like the gunk one sees in advertisements to stop people smoking.
The atmosphere is sombre. Fire's now raging on 10 fronts. It was many more but right now there are still some fires burning frighteningly close to some wooded city suburbs some 30 kilometers away. The countdown: 181 confirmed dead but
believed to be many more because only the people burnt outside and
escaping on the roads have been counted. People fighting the fire in their houses or sheltering therein have been vaporized. Some 1,000 homes burnt and over 5,000 homeless. Our water supply and our power lines are threatened.
Several dear friends in country Victoria are still on fire alert.
One could succumb to gloom but the stories coming out are immensely uplifting and it truly makes one think about how one wants to live. I thought I'd share this
story which came today from Lily, the daughter of dear friends of ours, who with
her parents fought the fire at their farm in Flowerdale, near Kinglake last
Saturday (7 February 2009).
Much love to all,
Thank you C and M, we are alright.
Sorry it took so long to get back to you.
We were cut off for a number of days by fire and fallen trees and closed
roads, plus no electricity, no phones (not even mobiles!) - we just got phone and internet on today - though we still don't have power. We hired a generator because they think it might be a couple of weeks before power is back on.
Well, thank you for your prayers.
My mum and dad and I were home on Saturday night when the fire hit us. We had no warning - except that for the two hours leading up to it we could hear this low roaring which sounded like all the oceans of the world.
Finally at about 9.30 pm the sky lit up like the sun was about to come up - except in red! The whole of the western sky. And then, as we stood on the back verandah watching, the whole of the western range became an inferno and 200 foot flames poured over the hill like a tsunami. My dad said "this is it" - the day had come that we always prepared for.
Bushfire. For a moment panic really gripped me as I realized that in about 10 minutes we were going to have to defend our home against THAT. The fury and speed of the fire was amazing. It seemed impossible. I just said a little prayer asking the Lord to give me calm to do the job ahead... and then we went to work. We turned on the sprinklers (they seemed pathetic at that moment!) We looked for embers starting spot fires.
We stood and watched. Beautiful and terrible the landscape was lit with trees that were turned into giant candles -- everything was glowing with a red light.
No need for torches. And just when I thought that I could defend my home
calmly, I heard our cattle start to bellow with terror. Their paddock was
on fire, and the trees were alight and burning wildly. Sobs escaped as a
realized that they didn't' have a chance. And I berated myself for not
having moved them in the morning. It was too late now. The road was
between me and them, and the road was an inferno. I prayed that God would give them wisdom and protect them.
Then I went back to work. The flames crossed the road to the north of our property, and raced up the neighboring field faster than a car could drive. Soon the 50 hectares to the north was burning. We went with buckets and mops to try and stop it entering our property.
Luckily a small gravel road on that side of the house acted as a fire break, it
crossed in a few spots, but was easy to fight back because the wind was
blowing against it. We fought there for 10 minutes, and then we realized
the fire front had crossed to the south of our property and was heading
towards our house with the wind behind it. We ran down to the back verandah, and watched as the plantations of trees exploded and the fire raced towards
I had always known that fire creates its own weather - but to see
it, to see the flame twisters racing across our pasture towards our house! It
was something else.
Amazingly, just as the flames got close to our house, the wind dropped a little and changed direction a fraction.
It meant we could race outside again with buckets of water and mops. Our dam bank was on fire, and we managed to stop that about 10 feet from our house. A few buckets of water on tree trunks stopped the gum trees near our dam from going up - and at about 11.00, we stopped and realised we had just saved our house... our sheds and our hay.
But my heart wept for our cows - they were silent now! We couldn't get to them either, because a giant tree and fallen across our front gate, and the road was still burning. We continued to put out flaming spot fires till 3 in the morning. No sleep. Too scared the house would catch alight from some flying ember.
We kept constant watch. Every now and then we would hear a huge 'BOOM", another ancient tree collapsing, ones of burning wood falling to the ground.
At first light, we got up to see the damage. All the hills for kilometers were black. Fires still burning everywhere. One of our neighbors had been busy with the tractor, clearing the road of fallen trees. We went to the gun safe and got the gun and 50 bullets. A grim task ahead, to put down any of our cattle still alive if
they were badly burnt. We drove the truck down the road, dreading what we would see.
But as we turned the corner into their field, we saw them all
standing in the dam, unhurt, wide-eyed and very much alive!
They had not panicked, but had all squeezed into the small waterhole and waited it out. 62 head, cows and calves. Amazing. Miraculous! I don't ever recall being so relieved and happy. The poor things were so happy to see us, and greeted us with wonder and joy, even eating from our hands. They followed us home at a trot (a slow one, I don't think they had slept either!).
We returned them to the home paddock and gave them a big feed of hay. And then we felt happy too, and went down to the house for a makeshift breakfast!
So that was our big night. I will leave it at that for the moment.
Things are devastated around us. What has followed in the next few days is a blur.
Making sure our friends, family and staff were safe (yes so far, though many
have died. More than has been released by the media), trying to get
messages out that we were safe, seeing who lost their homes (two of our staff did, as well as many of our friends, several on our own road), hearing the
miraculous tales of survival, and experiencing ourselves the amazing
generosity of people.
A couple of days after the fire people started arriving on our door with hay for our cattle. So far we have had one delivery and expect 3 next week. Farmers from all over Australia have been driving down in convoy with hay! It's a glorious sight. It would have been horrible to see our animals miraculously saved from the fire only to starve to death because their pasture was burnt!
It is too early to think about the human toll. We need to find reasons to hope. The human toll has been high and horrible.
We can't talk of God rescuing us, because I feel sure that others prayed and were not rescued. Several died as they sheltered in the Catholic Church in
Marysville. That really hurts. Right now we can only offer a hand, provide food and shelter to those who need it, do what we have to do, promise to help rebuild.
But if I wake in the morning in tears - by 10am some amazing act of generosity has shown me the Christ is with us in the goodness of those around us. And He
is indeed close.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
For his name's sake.
Even though I walk
Through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
In the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
With Love, I will write more soon. Lily xxx
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A HUGE THANK YOU for purchasing my book You Can... Expect A Miracle. Sales have been fantastic worldwide.
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"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle" - Albert Einstein