I feel uncomfortably numb, this is a summer like no other. 2020 has brought a challenging and unfortunately devastating start to the year for many here on the east coast. It would be impossible to begin my first post of the year without acknowledging the difficulties that so many Australians have faced in the past weeks and months with the ongoing bush fires.
Our family’s annual pilgrimage, to my mother’s farm at Bermagui on the far south coast was harshly interrupted early on new year’s morning when we were told to evacuate due to the the incoming Cobargo fire. It was a tense night spent with friends in town, their home of two accommodated an extra 5 that night. The country club served over 800 meals to displaced people and the sports oval was refuge for thousands of holiday-makers.
When we left the farm it was fire ready with a sprinklers soaking the house and the veranda and the pool was full of water . We all knew my mum’s partner would stay to defend. We drove away in the pitch blackness of the morning.
Driving back into the forest to the farm the following morning was scary and eerie – not knowing what we would find. Communications went down pretty early on in the chaos. Thankfully luck came in the early hours via a wind change. The fire turned back on itself before reaching the forests that surround the property. Sadly the nearby village of Cobargo was the hardest hit.
In the following days we decided to leave the South Coast like thousands of others. We have tried to maintain a sense of normalcy in Byron, but one eye has been kept firmly on the Fires Near Me app and yesterday the threat reappeared. A fire suddenly swept through the forest that surrounded the farm and house. With the sprinkler system pumping copious amounts of water over the house, and the help of incredible local firies and neighbours my mum and stepfather were able to defend and save the house. Albeit damaged and nerves frayed.
As I write this there are choppers flying over the house; scooping up water from the river to keep the fires at bay. Somehow my mum manages to keep her spirits up despite the on going threat. The bravery of volunteer firefighters, the diligence of the Bega Valley Council and the community response has been incredible. But the undeniable feeling about this summer is that for many we have been robbed of those intangible lazy days of January.
That the coast is no longer a place of refuge from busy working lives but a place to escape from. Even if not directly affected, many friends have felt that the images of burning farms, animals and homes, and the never-ending smoke has intruded the rhythm of summer life. If you are in a position to donate/volunteer, please see below for some great organizations who are doing amazing work on the far south coast.
For us, January is normally a time to regroup and recharge. To make plans for the new year. Not only have the fires been devastating but they have thrown our plans for 2020 a little out of kilter. To this end we are attempting to stay on track and pick up where we left off last year … rebuilding our website is still underway and an upcoming Still Life/Interiors workshop will be a much needed distraction in February. Stay in touch via Insta and FB.
Thank you so much for your patience, as I write this we are heading south to Bermagui – it is a long way from over.
PS. A big shout out to Virgin who made changing tickets so easy due to Bushfire Support 🙏
Bega Shire Valley is doing an amazing job of keeping residents informed via there website and FB. For all donations and offers of support click here
Cobargo Community Bushire Fund Relief
Cobargo District Emergency Hay Fund
Many of the area’s farmers have lost nearly everything and still need to feed the livestock they have left. This fund is to donate hay, chaff pallets and more. Bendigo Bank started the fund with $10,000, but further donations would be a huge help to the community.
World Central Kitchen operating out of > Eastwoods Deli who are making upto 900 meals a day feeding people from Mogo to Quaama ! #amazing