Incredible story of bush fire survival

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Popular Culture et al
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I wrote yesterday of the horror of widespread bushfires at this time of the year in Australia.

Today comes the welcome news that no-one has died in the Tasmanian fires, although there has been considerable property damage, but one family’s story has “gone viral” around the world. It will certainly touch the heart of anyone who has experienced a wildfire.

The family shelter under the sea jetty – this powerful image has captured the imagination of the world.

Tim Holmes yesterday told how his wife Tammy and their five grandchildren huddled in water under a jetty for two and a half hours to avoid the fire which destroyed the couple’s home in Dunalley, Tasmania.

Mr Holmes and his wife were looking after grandchildren Matilda, 11, Liam, 9, Caleb, 6, Esther, 4, and Charlotte, 1, while their mum Bonnie and dad David were out.

Mr Holmes thought he had prepared his property for Friday’s bushfire, but when he saw smoke rise from a nearby ridge, he sent Tammy and the grandchildren to the nearby sea jetty.

Despite the arrival of three fire trucks, the 62-year-old could not defend the home he built himself.

“I looked at the firefighters and said, ‘I have to go to Tammy and the kids’.” Mr Holmes ran downhill and found Tammy and the five grandchildren huddled in the water, with their pet dog Polly on the jetty.

“For the next 2½ hours we huddled under the jetty as the fire intensified and produced a plume of smoke, ash and debris that left us with very little oxygen,” he said.

“There were times when we had to move out deeper because it was too hot, and there were times when the jetty itself caught fire.

“I was able to scoop some water onto the jetty and put it out.”

They eventually made their way to safety as the fire burnt itself out.

“It’s all gone, every last item, but it’s a great sense of relief to think that we lost not one hair on a child’s head,” Mr Holmes said.

I don’t doubt that these brave kids’ parents will be forever thankful for the wisdom and alertness of Grandad and Grandma. I have been at the coast in Australia when a nearby bushfire started raining ash on us. (At Metung, on the Gippsland Lakes, in Victoria.) Over our heads the smoke loomed ominously, and the unmistakeable eucalypt-and-grass tinged smell of the fire pervaded everything, but thankfully the fire was far enough away that we were not directly threatened. It was, nevertheless, a deeply disturbing experience.

As I write, NSW is still burning, despite a cool south-westerly change helping the situation. It appears no one has died there either, which is a blessing.

Next week will also, apparently, be a very bad one for fire danger throughout the country. We have family working at Uluru, where they are looking forward to temperatures in the shade in excess of 50 degrees Celcius, or a balmy 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

So all of you sitting staring at rain or snow in northern climes – count your blessings.

(Yahoo and others)

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