February 10, 2009 at 8:00pm
I barely recognise the streets on TV. They’re black and burned away.
I lived in Kinglake with my family till I was twenty-three. My parents, luckily, moved away two years ago. But my brother stayed. He lost his house. My brother is one of the senior members of the Kinglake CFA. Earlier in the day, they were called to assist the brigade at Strathewen with a bushfire. At that stage, there was no threat to Kinglake. My brother has committed most of his free time to being a fire fighter. He’s always wanted to do it full time but has had trouble because he has a history of asthma. He worked for the Department of Sustainability and Environment, fighting forest fires and conducting controlled burns in their helicopter team a few years back. He has become an expert at managing bushfires. But he wasn’t home when the wind changed.
Reports from friends, former neighbours, relatives, all say the same thing, that it happened so fast. You can’t even guage it. It came so quick. My old neighbour was on the phone to her daughter, who was warning her to get out. She went outside, looked at the hills in the distance, the hint of smoke, and she figured they were safe. In literally ten minutes, she was running up the road away from the flames.
My aunty freed her horses. Not sure if they’ve saved them all yet. My grandma watered down her roof and stayed till they had to go. Her house was spared.
My brother is still out fighting the Kinglake fire. He’s been working virtually non-stop since it began. I think he’s trying to keep busy so he doesn’t have to stop and think about it. About the town being burned to nothing. The dead bodies in the paddocks. In the burnt out cars along the roads. About his house, his stuff, all gone. And the one thing that always stands out for me with my brother Ben is that he’s a good person. He would do anything to help out anyone. He has always put himself out to assist others. His entire life is dedicated to taking care of his young daughter and helping the local CFA. He would sacrifice his personal happiness to achieve this, without any hesitation. Yet he’s the one who gets the bad deal. It’s always such a confusing equation, in that you want for good things to happen to good people. It saddens me that this is not the case.
To the many families affected, many of whom I know, my sympathies go out to you all. I am driving down to Melbourne tomorrow to see if I can help in any way. I don’t think I’ll be able to do anything much, but just to help my family. Just to be close enough to be able to assist if necessary.
To my brother, still out, still fighting. I see the efforts you go to. The ways you push yourself to make other people happy. I hate seeing it at times. But you’re a better person than I could ever hope to be.
The world is a better place for having you in it.