Back from Alexandra

Posted Tue, Feb 17 2009 11:08 by bill

Got back early Sunday morning from Alexandra complex. While there we stayed at what we dubbed the “Alexandra Hilton

I think only half those tents were there when we first got there, but new ones were going up all the time. Inside the big white marquee are the same kind of tents again for those on night shift. Saw a lot of people from around here there: DSE, CFA, earth moving contractors and logging contractors all travelled there to help fight the fires. A lot of good people.

We were dispatched out along the Yarra Ranges: Buxton, Marysville and Narbethong.  I had my camera but never got around to taking any photos other than at the staging ground.  Most of you have probably seen enough of it on TV anyway. There are some images though that I wish I did take a picture of.

The first thing I noticed which you don’t see on the news is the places hit by fire where the houses did survive. Some seemingly miraculously on top of silver black hills where the trees were all just black poles.

In another site, the tops of mature gums were all blown out of them, snapped off about 10 or 15 meters from the ground. This was where two fire fronts had converged. It really looked like a bomb had gone off or a meteorite had hit the forest.

But probably the number one image I’ll remember and wish I had a camera on me at the moment was this: My team leader, who really did an amazing job (as did all my team), had been showing a 7 year old boy around the fire-truck. He was sitting in the drivers seat and hit the sirens. So big fireman Bill jumped in the passenger side and said “let’s go”.  Quickly assured him we were playing, and I put my helmet on him. He grabbed the wheel with both hands and said “vrooom.. vrooom” and had a smile from ear to ear. Kids and fire-trucks hey ;)

The real challenges ahead are helping these communities rebuild.  Donations are getting to them: we helped unload a couple of big trucks of food essentials, clothing and drinking water. It will take time to rebuild and lots of support. I’m confident the fires will be controlled; there’s some great crews and operators working on that from all over the world. The challenges of housing seem more daunting. We stayed in tents for a few days, but for some families all they have are tents for homes in other relief centres. There really is a mammoth task of rebuilding that lays ahead.

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