The next week is extraordinary.
The road is closed, the phone is down and we are the only place with electricity.
Our most urgent concern is water.
The drinking water
system is intact, but our tanks are empty.
We have one small tank left and connect it so we can have a shower and wash the dishes.
The dam water, used for the cattle and for fire fighting is a different story. It takes us nearly a week and we lose a lot of water (we cannot afford to lose) to find and mend all the leaks.
The danger is by no means over. New fires flare up again every day. We have to hose down the burnt chook sheds for days after the fire. Smoke suddenly appears someplace and we find another nest of glowing embers. We are constantly worried that a sudden strong wind starts another fire in a spot that has not yet burnt.
On the 6th of January, one week after the fire, we extinguish the last burning tree.
The first few days we constantly hear trees crash to the ground. Two days after the fire the forestry guys come along our road and push over trees they deem to be dangerous.
We gratefully accept their offer to take out a tree next to our driveway. It would have done a lot of damage to other trees, falling by itself.
I loved that tree.
We bury dead wildlife.
We find emergency sheds for the stressed and bewildered chooks.
Everything is full of ash and burnt leaves.
Business stops dead.
Lots of local friends call in with tears and hugs, bearing news and lovely, lovely comfort food. We indulge!
But every day we hear from another friend or neighbour who has lost everything.
There are no words.
But all around us there is frenzied activity: The council cuts down more trees. Other people cut down more trees. Private bulldozers and bobcats push down more trees. Law and order are abandoned as more and more trees are felled, most of them completely sound and harmless.
Also there are surveys, one or more every day. They make sure that we have survived, try to find out what happened, what is needed. They offer water, food, counselling and toilet paper, but we really have everything we want right now.
All we need is time to think and to plan.