By Ronnie Ayliffe
A puff of smoke, a plume of smoke, a towering inferno of smoke.
Here we go again – this is going to be another full fire emergency.
If you’ve seen the news in Australia over the past few days, you couldn’t miss the images of the Coolagolite Fire emergency on the Far South Coast NSW. Coolagolite is a small locality sandwiched between the village of Cobargo and the coastal town of Bermagui. This is the same area in the Bega Valley that was devastated on New Year’s Eve, 2019, by the Badja Forest Rd Fire.
On the morning of 3 October 2023, I spied that first trickle of smoke rising skyward from my home, just north of Cobargo. Damn. Here we go again. Here we go again.
I knew there was no stopping this small blaze from rapidly escalating into a full emergency. It isn’t even summer.
What’s it like to be thrown into yet another fire emergency for the third, fourth, or fifth time in just four years? Hard isn’t the right word. It’s horrible.
I wonder how my neighbours are faring? Are they having flashbacks? Struggling to breathe? Are they rolling out the hoses? Packing the vehicles? Moving their animals? Starting their water pumps? Scanning for falling embers? How many times is it possible to do this without something vital inside our beings just shattering?
I stood in my yard, selfishly hoping that the winds didn’t bring the blaze toward our home. Please. Not again. But that meant the fire threatened others. This fire destroyed homes, herds, paddocks, feed, fences, forests, and precious native flora and fauna. Again. A neighbouring farm lost all its feed, silage, fences and part of their beloved dairy herd. Again.
As the fire raged, the local Facebook page was equally ablaze:
“Animals accepted at the Bega Showground Evacuation Centre”
“I’ve got a bed if anyone needs a place.”
“Does anyone know if __ is ok?”
“Is the road open?”
“I’ve got a paddock – you can bring your horse here.
Community members once again stepped in to support each other. RFS volunteers once again held a hose.
“Thanks, emergency services volunteers! You’re the best!”
It rained last night. A little bit. Enough to reduce the threat to lives and homes. I’m trying to breathe a little easier (but my lungs and my heart are making it hard).
How many times is it possible to do this?
I don’t know.