Kinglake Bushfire Update 2/4 (The property)

To: "'Birding Aus'" <>
Subject: Kinglake Bushfire Update 2/4 (The property)
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2009 00:09:15 +1100
Getting closer to my sister's place we passed the ruins of one of the
neighbour's houses where my sister's partner made the occupants leave their
burning house and travel with him into St Andrews, after the fire front had
passed. Apparently they were so shocked they didn't know what to do and were
just staying in the house as it burned down around them. A little further
and the house with the wildlife shelter - completely destroyed - 800 sick
and injured animals died there. Finally we turned the corner and saw my
sister's place. Had I not been following another vehicle, I would have
missed it - all the familiar landmarks are gone. The 19th century church
that they had trucked from northern Victoria that my sister used as her art
studio was gone. The house was gone - except the chimney which was still
standing. The sign that used to read "Kinglake National Park" - my previous
mental prompt that this was their driveway - was blackened and twisted and


One of the first things I noticed as we turned into the driveway was how
damaged and rutted the driveway itself was. I'm not sure that a non-4WD
would have been able to travel along their driveway at the moment. I don't
know what causes the rutting - I can only assume that the heat of the fire
removes the moisture from the ground and turns parts of it into dust that
just blow away. But I'm only guessing. As we drove down the drive we could
see that all their sheds and outhouses were gone. Once we got to where the
house used to stand, we saw their van that was parked out the front of the
house - completely burned out. All the gear from their St Andrews market
stand (they had the sausage stand at the market) was in that van and was now
gone. Something that you don't really think of is that so many people that
live out in this area are self-employed and not only are their homes gone,
but their livelihood is gone too. In my sister's case, she has lost her
studio and all art materials, but they're replaceable. They've lost all the
gear for their market stand, but alread friends have lent them enough to
start again. Fortunately for them though, my sister's partner still has a
job that he can go to, so they still have income.


We parked in the cleared area on their driveway where their son had had the
foresight to move their car to when the fire came. As a result, the car
survived with scorch marks and a few melted bits. Once out of the car one of
the first things we noticed was that their glasshouse was still standing!
Apparently protected by the concrete watertank that they had on the side of
their house. The glass that faced the fire front was broken, apparently
shattered by debris thrown up by the incredible winds, but the rest of the
glass was intact. It was obvious that it had become very hot in the
glasshouse though, as most plants were dry and shrivelled. Tomatoes had
cooked on the vine. Their son collected pitcher plants and other carnivorous
plants (as some teenage boys do!) They were also dried out and dead,


Then we saw something incredible. In the shade cast by their concrete
watertank was a big old-man Eastern Grey Kangaroo! This kangaroo has been
living on or near their property for more than a decade, and somehow it had
survived. It's fur looked black, but I suspect from travelling through
burned out paddocks rather than from direct exposure to the fire. Their
fishpond had survived and the goldfish in the pond survived - once again, I
can only assume it was protected by the concrete water tank. At least the
kangaroo would have water to drink (plus their dam was also intact, so there
was water there too). All paddocks and grassland were burned though, so
there was no food for the kangaroo. My sister's partner drove back to the
feed supplier in St Andrews and collected a bale of lucerne. Once he had
returned, we broke off a "biscuit" from that bale and tossed it to the 'roo.
Amazingly it got up and sauntered towards the hay and started to eat!
They'll go out to the property every day or so and make sure it has some


Looking through the ashes of the house, you can see where the various rooms
were. The fridge is obviously where the kitchen was, and is buckled and
blank. There are springs in the ashes where the sofa and the beds were. The
metal storage cabinet where my sister stored her finished artworks is still
there, but all the drawers contain is charred paper, instead of the final
art. The house has collapsed around the ride-on lawnmower, which was stored
underneath. The lawnmower is recognisable, except that the engine has gone -
it was aluminium and is now a river of since-resolidified molten metal. The
chimney still stands, and in the fireplace is the wood-burning stove that
used to head the place. On a shelf above that, but currently well out of
reach, are three ornaments - in exactly the location that they were
originally placed. The corrugated iron roof is now twisted amongst the other
unidentifiable metal items.


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