posted in: Writing | 13

I found this charred piece of someone’s book on the edge of Timbarra Drive, Beechmont, where 10 houses were destroyed by fire last weekend. I talked to some firefighters who were patrolling the area in a truck, and thanked them for the amazing work they had done to save the rest of the houses in our area. They expressed regret in not being able to save more. But the fire was just too fierce when it came over the western side of the plateau. The firies had to retreat to safe ground, and I reassured them that I was very glad that they did, and there was no loss of human life.

Last Friday we had to quickly leave our house with our ‘valuables’ as the fire was fast approaching. What are your valuables? What is important? For me it is the people and the creatures that I love, plus some writing, some art, some letters exchanged many years ago. Then I also packed the things I needed to get by day-to-day (some clothes, food, devices, passports, wallets, etc) because we didn’t know when we could return home, and there was a real chance that our house and everything in it would be lost.

I am lucky. My house still stands. All those bits and pieces that make my life comfortable and productive are still in place. But the world around me is shifting, changing, under my feet.

There has never been a fire like this, sweeping through the northern flanks of Lamington National Park, in whitefella human history. That’s why we moved here – we thought we’d be safe from fire, at least for a few years before climate change really kicked in. But now it has. Unprecedented low humidity levels for south east Queensland. Unprecedented high September temperatures. A drought that feels like it will never end. The leaf litter in the rainforest is dry and crispy. The normally verdant green grass of Beechmont is browning off. All is dry, so tinder-dry.

These mountains are my home, these forests are my refuge, these rainforests are my sacred place. But climate change is taking this away from me. If my house burns down, I can rebuild it somewhere else. But I can’t rebuild this landscape the same as it was. Not while the weather continues its relentless march into new territory that’s hostile to humans and rainforests alike.

Yes I am so grateful to the brave people who saved my house. But now we all need to be brave, and act swiftly, to save the natural world, which is our true home.

What are you prepared to do to save your home?

13 Responses

  1. Rhonda

    Great post PP – incredibly sad that people lost homes but if we don’t act it will just keep getting worse.

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks Rhonnie! Yes we must keep trying to ring in the changes – for a liveable future.

  2. Sarah Way

    Thank you, Paula, for sharing so honestly about what would have been an incredibly difficult return to your beloved landscape and home after the horrors of last week. What a difficult time it is to return to the fireground after a ferocious wildfire.If any good comes from this, it is that I have already been hearing people speaking up about how these conditions and these early extreme fire conditions are a wake-up call and the consequence of dealing with climate change. Thank you to adding to these voices.

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks Sarah! Yes you never know… one day the majority of people will realise that something must be done to create a liveable future. And it’s events like this that create awareness. Fingers crossed that this ‘critical mass’ will happen before we have too many more weather-induced disasters

  3. Karynne Dalton

    So very glad you and yours are safe. Although you weren’t aware my ‘stay safe’ thoughts were with you last weekend. My sister lives at Stanthorpe – she is safe – it was a very harrowing time! Regeneration after fire in the Australian bush is an amazing process. Don’t forget to document it now at its worst and in the not so distant future. Love your work! Stay safe!

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks Karynne! Maybe I didn’t know you were thinking about me, but I was nonetheless very heartened and rather overwhelmed by all the good wishes and enquires I received. I’m glad your sister is safe too. And yes you’re right about the regen of the bush after fire. I’ve only walked to the visitors centre of Binna Burra so far but most of the trees still have green leafy canopies, and they will survive. The ground layer is black and ashy but it will grow back after rain. Plenty of fascinating nature journaling ahead! Cheers, Paula

  4. Mike Jackson

    Even viewed from the other side of the world (Somerset, England) my wife – a Queenslander – and I grieve for the precious hinterland and all who live, work, move and have their being there – whether animal or human. The damage to the environment is an even bigger tragedy than the loss of Binna Burra.

    • Paula Peeters

      Yes Mike it is very sad to see such unprecedented fires. But be reassured that much of what has been burnt is eucalypt forest, and most of the fire was moderate intensity (a ground fire, not a crown fire). According to a ranger friend, the damage to wet rainforest this time was minimal. What scares me is that this is the start of a worrying trend – over time the rainforest will shrink more and more. But right now the forest is still full of birds, and I even spotted a few koalas.

  5. Sue Southwood

    Yes Paula, I am so glad you are safe and that your house is still standing. I’ve been in similar circumstances and what do you pack, when do you go, can you stay, are tortuous decisions. It is hard to find hope, until those first little green leaves burst through the charred bark. Even tho there’s no rain, the leaves do come back. It is heart-breaking to see and think of all the wildlife being killed by this event, and I wonder how many other events will take place before the nobs in Parliament wake up.
    Much love and relief that you are ok.

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks Sue, yes the process of regeneration will be good to see. Our eucalypts love fire, as do the grass trees, which will be sending up green spikes as I write this. The retreating rainforest is what makes me sad, with all the wonders it contains. But we’re not there quite yet, we still have a chance to turn this around before it’s too late. We have to try. Love to you, take care

  6. Carol Donaldson

    It is sobering to here about how climate change is affecting someone on the other side of the world. So oftenwe live in a bubble, thinking, this won’t happen to me, not here. But I live on the very edge of a flood zone for a big river, climate change may well get my home too before long.

    • Paula Peeters

      Hey Carol good to hear from you. Please stay safe and have your ‘flood plan’ ready. Nature is still awe-inspiring, even in the form of extreme weather events. But our human bodies are fragile and need care. All the best, Paula