Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bushfire (and bushfire quilts)

This last week has been a sombre one. Bush fire, normally the scourge of summer, has ravaged much of the Blue Mountains in an untimely, unseasonal, and very unexpected way. Australians in general, and mountains folk in particular, understand the threat posed by the dense and rugged landscape that we choose to call home. But the weather conditions in past weeks, and indeed months, have been hotter, drier, windier than normal. On Thursday 17 October an almost perfect storm of soaring temperatures and strong, gusting winds conspired to spark a fire that rapidly bore down upon residential streets in North Springwood and Winmalee. It did not take long for row upon row of houses to be gutted, for street upon street to be consumed.

Photo Blue Mountains Gazette on facebook, 18 October 2013
Bushfires are unpredictable monsters; directed by the whims of prevailing winds and atmospheric conditions. With temperatures in the mid to high-thirties, low humidity, and a dense accumulation of fuel on the ground, the Springwood fire burned and threatened and burned its way from street to street, from ridge to ridge, through interconnecting valleys, leaving nothing but a blackened footprint in its wake.

At the end of the first few days over 200 homes had been lost and around 109 properties had been damaged. It is numbing stuff, unbelievable and inconceivable.

We have been on the periphery of this fire; it was in the valley beyond, and in the bushland at the end of our road. In one day it had raced from Springwood, following the line of the creek to the river at the foot of the mountains. On Friday night we stood watching the flames from across the road, watching and waiting and hoping.

Thanks to the firies, we were kept safe. Blessed be the firies.

But this was not the only fire to burn in the mountains this week. A massive fire has been burning from Lithgow and across the north-western edge of the mountains. Yet another fire cropped up at Mt Victoria, the little township right at the top of the range. Homes have been destroyed in these fires also, but amazingly (truly amazingly), no lives have been lost. We are so very thankful for the efforts of thousands of fire-fighters, the home-grown ones and those from interstate, for the gutsy hard-slogging hours of work they have put in to protect so many.

It's been an exhausting time for all. I can't convey the intensity of constantly watching the television footage, of monitoring the updates on facebook and Twitter, of witnessing the unfolding devastation again and again, and hearing stories of friends, and friends of friends who have lost everything.

The outpouring of love, practical help and financial support has been just as overwhelming. We have lived through bushfire time and time again, but never before has our community been so "connected", so immediately responsive to the immediate need arising from crisis.

There has been no sewing here, and little or no space devoted to creative pursuit. It has been enough to put food on the table, to keep family close, to pack clothes and memorabilia in case of evacuation, and to send thoughts of consolation and hope out into the universe.

This is not a comprehensive narrative of the enormity of this fire event - it is bigger, wider and deeper than I care to describe. Fire continues to burn away and beyond containment lines. It will burn in the wilderness for weeks, perhaps months. We hope and we pray that the weather will be kind, that soaking rain will come, that towns and communities still under threat will be spared.

Those most affected now face the enormity of rebuilding what they have lost, of replacing that which cannot entirely be replaced. So many people, individuals, groups and organisations have rallied to try and ease the pain as much as possible. One of these is Tracey Greenaway from the local branch of the Salvation Army. She has initiated an appeal for quilts for fire victims, and she would love to hear from anybody who is in a position to help. Donations of fabric, wadding, thread, finished quilt tops, time or money would be most welcome, but you don't have to be a quilter to make a contribution.

You can read about the Bushfire Quilt Appeal on Tracey's blog, and please do get in contact with her if you think you might be able to assist. I imagine it would be a wonderful, healing thing to receive a quilt purposefully made-with-love at a time like this.

I have pulled out several unfinished quilt tops from my cupboard tonight and over the next few weeks I will see what can be done to pull them into shape.

It is times like these that serve to remind us that we have much to be thankful for.

Evie xxx


  1. Very evocatively written Evie-May. You have a gift with words. I'll follow up the link for bushfire quilts.

    1. Thank you Libby :) I'm sure every little bit will help. x

  2. We have been watching the fire stories on the news here and sending our hopes that the fires can be contained before more damage is done out into the ether. I had not realised you were so close to the action, as it were. I'm off to follow the link. Stay safe x

    1. So far so good Annie. The fire will probably burn away in the national park to the north for weeks or months, but the scary thing is that summer hasn't even arrived yet. It's hard to believe that this time last year we had snow in the mountains! And it is heartbreaking hearing people's stories, especially those with little kids who have been exposed to the trauma. We are so fortunate to have been spared the worst, and are thankful to be part of a strong and caring community. Thank you for your kind thoughts (from the bottom of my heart). xxx


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