JANUARY - FEBRUARY 2003
Kellie & Breeze: Did we mention that there would be a lot of swimming pictures? Hey, it was January, it was high summer, the days were hot and the water was cool, and we two Goldens had our Olympic preparations to attend to.
Kellie & Breeze: Bushfires had been burning in the huge forests to the west of Canberra for many weeks, and on January 18 things turned really bad. At midday, an extremely strong wind from the northwest started to pick up, fanning the flames into a full-blown firestorm. The situation deteriorated so rapidly that the emergency services seemed to be caught completely off-guard, the result being that the residents of the south-western suburbs of Canberra, where we live, got hit before we really knew what was happening. At about 3.00 PM, the firestorm hit the suburb to our immediate west and then tore down the pine forest which borders our suburb to the north. Almost immediately, and rather too late, the evacuation of residents in the threatened areas was initiated. As the stream of cars came over the hill to our west, the unbelievably dense smoke turned day into night. The wind was so strong that all the trees and hedges were writhing like snakes, and embers from the burning pine forests were flying through the air.
Many of our neighbours decided to evacuate of their own accord, but the Pack Leader and Alpha Female decided to stay and protect No 86 until the order from emergency services came through. They had already packed the car with the irreplaceables, leaving just enough room for two Golden Retrievers and a goodly supply of dog food, and busied themselves hosing down the house and its surrounds and taking all the other preventative measures recommended by emergency services.
Fortunately, the wind abated at about 6.00 PM, and so the main danger was over. However, by that time hundreds of homes had been destroyed, four humans had lost their lives and many animals had perished. Perhaps the most tragic loss occurred at the animal hospital about two hundred yards from No 86. The staff just didn't realize how dangerous the situation had become in so brief a time. Consequently, before they had a chance to release the dogs and cats being boarded there at the time, some sort of massive fireball hit the place, so they had to flee for their lives. As a result, some forty or so dogs and cats perished in the flames.
Next morning, the Pack Leader walked around our suburb. The place looked like a war zone: burned out houses; hundreds of burned trees, burned sports grounds and other open spaces; fires still smouldering; residents walking around in a daze and taking stock of their losses.
Perhaps the worst thing from our point of view was that the pine forests to our north and west were completely destroyed. In the coming months, all of the burned trees were to be felled and chipped and chainsawed and bulldozed, leaving a completely denuded landscape. That meant, of course, that we would never again be able to go for long walks and runs through our beloved Stromlo forest, because Stromlo forest just wasn't there anymore. We can still walk and run along the old bush tracks of course, but it's now all open landscape, and its just not the same.