News & Media

The Aftermath

By: Robert Bury

  12.00 AM 7 December, 2009

Views: 8996


The Aftermath

Saturday February 7th 2009 had been a long day with very little sleep I returned to the Doreen Fire station around 7.00am.

It was no surprise to see that there were people getting ready for the day and night ahead

3rd Lieutenant Chris Maries was organising a truck to go and see what we could do to assist up at Strathewen

His first question "Robert do you have First aid qualifications?"

The assembled Crew was then asked if we would be ok about the possibility of finding Bodies

I realised that this might not be a typical Fire call

Into our Turnout gear on to the Truck off we go

Red and Blue Lights flashing but no Sirens to break the silence

It was explained to me later that the sirens might add to the stress everybody had already experienced.

The smoke and smell still hangs in the air but the countryside seems untouched

Our first stop Arthurs Creek- Strathewen Fire Station

The Magnitude of what was about to unfold first hit me there

People's eyes red, sore, teary, tired, longing, searching all looking for an answer

All silently asking me a thousand questions without saying a word

The CFA Station had become a haven to the many people who had gone through what only can be described as Hell on Earth

We stayed long enough to get instructions to head up into the aftermath and render what assistance we could

As if day turned to night the country side changed from a pleasant outlook to one of complete devastation

Blackened and twisted trees, power line down, cars burnt out, smouldering remains of a chimney where a house once stood

The blossoming blue and white Police Tape fluttering in the breeze a stark contrast to the blackened surroundings telling us that tragedy had touched this place

I learnt quickly one car in the driveway meant that they residents of this peaceful village might have escaped two cars in the what's left of the property probably meant they didn't

It was not a shock to see the first body but it did reach in to your subconscious (I still see that scene permanently etched in my brain)

We did some blacking out and cleared the road

We came across a farm house were 19 people had survived the animated discussion with the farmer and his wife describing what they had just endured it was difficult to comprehend how they had all got through safely

Yet there they where standing in front of us asking if we would like a cup of tea and a biscuit

After a while it was decided we should have a break back at Arthurs Creek Fire Station and resupply

Dirty and tired we arrived at the Fire Station

Again we were meet with a sea of eyes all searching all asking questions we could not answer

Have you seen my Father, Mother, Daughter, Son, Neighbour, Brother, Sister,Friend?

Do you know?

Have you been?

Not a word was spoken by anyone but still the questions hung in the air

We retreated to the sanctuary of the Fire Station for a cup of tea and a bite to eat

A word of encouragement from the ladies behind the kitchen counter as they passed out my lunch

I wandered out side again that sea of eyes all wanting to know answers none of which I could give

My Mobile rang it was my sister Robyn she and her family were Ok but their house was gone lost to the fires in Reedy Creek

I burst into tears it had suddenly become personal

I disappeared behind a Fire Truck and regained my composure there were people out there far worse off than me

Again we were called to go back to Strathewen

More devastation yet strangely things survived

Pristine road signs, Houses untouched it made no sense

We were tasked to escort the Rangers through the forest

Their unpleasant task to put down the injured and dying animals

A message came through on the Radio for assistance

We were requested to help with a line search for a mother and child

I silently prayed that we would find them alive

It was not to be so

The Truck stopped near a Dam to investigate a burnt out car in a paddock the remains of a fire pump and hose nearby

To this day I do not know what transpired at that location

Did the occupants of this car survive in the dam?

The obvious intensity of the fire was clear to us all

A lone Power Pole smouldering but intact was quickly extinguished

We questioned ourselves were we doing enough to help?

 After many hours we needed to return to refuel and change crews

The strange thing was that no one wanted to go back to Arthurs Creek we wanted to return home to Doreen

No one could bear the close scrutiny of all those eyes searching for answers that we could not give




Last Updated: 10 December 2015