Fire Action Week 2021

M516217 Researchers at Federation University are seeking individuals aged 18 years or older who experienced bushfires in the last 10 years. This study aims to explore the prevalence of sleep disturbances and trauma symptoms in bushfire survivors, and is likely to take 20-30 minutes of your time. If you are interested in participating, you can enter the link into your internet browser or scan the QR code. We thank you for taking the time to be part of this study If you have any questions about this research, please contact Professor Gerard Kennedy on: Feel free to share with your friends and network. Bushfire Survey M516162 Wairewa resident, John Appleby, knew the importance of fire preparedness. In his role as a firefighter with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Mr Appleby had spent a lifetime practicing it. He knew that fuel reduction burns and removing flammable materials from around the home played a crucial role in preparing for fire. In the lead-up to the Black Summer Bushfires, Mr Appleby turned his attention to his farm leading into Wairewa. He and his partner, Francine Gilfedder, knew the bushfires were dancing around Wairewa and the likelihood of them reaching the small valley between Nowa Nowa and Orbost wasn’t lost on them. “The fires had been around us for weeks and we knew potentially we would get fire,” Mr Appleby said. He and Ms Gilfedder were meticulous in making sure the 100 acres of farmland, on which they live, was as ready as it could be. Four years of drought had left Wairewa valley, which is surrounded by forest, vulnerable to fire. “The drought had really created a perfect storm for the bushfires,” Mr Appleby said. “The dried fuel load was there to make it an unfightable fire when it came. “I’d done a lot of work with permanent sprinklers (fixing them to the house) and setting them going in the weeks prior to the fires,” Mr Appleby said. Another land holding of 50 acres at Nowa Nowa had benefited from nearby fuel reduction treatment. As the hot days that had embraced December passed in a succession of heatwaves, the temperatures soared into the early 40s in the final week of 2019. On Sunday, December 29 some Wairewa residents had packed up and left the valley fearing the worst. Julie Saunders and Ken Orchard were among them. “It was 46 degrees as we drove out on that day,” Ms Saunders recalls. The couple drove to Box Hill to stay with family. As dawn broke over Wairewa the following morning, and the valley braced for another scorching day, worried CFA members were door knocking urging residents to leave or to prepare for the worst. “There were some real discussions happening that day about the possibility of the fire reaching Wairewa,” Mr Appleby recalls. The CFA made it known the Wairewa Public Hall would be open for people to gather. “As the day developed and it became obvious we would be impacted by fire, the Wairewa CFA tanker was parked outside the hall for protection,” Mr Appleby said. A fire strike team was placed in nearby Nowa Nowa as a precaution. Mr Appleby recalls the seriousness of the day as the temperature climbed to 45 degrees. “People were either evacuating, preparing to evacuate or getting ready to stay and defend,” he said. When it became obvious the valley would inevitably be in the fire’s path, people began gathering at the public hall in the late afternoon. Many brought their animals with them. As an eerie darkness descended onWairewa from the approaching firestorm, 30 people stood or sat solemnly inside. Mr Appleby and Ms Gilfedder were among them. Before leaving their home, just down the road, the couple had turned on the sprinklers around their house. Mr Appleby had shepherded his 50 bullocks in from the paddocks and had them beside the house under the sprinklers before he and Ms Gilfedder drove to the hall to wait it out. “There were about 15-20 dogs inside the hall and six horses on the tennis court,” Ms Gilfedder remembers. Continued page 9 2021 FIRE ACTION WEEK Wairewa residents, Francine Gilfedder and John Appleby, in front of their farmhouse which survived the Black Summer Bushfires. K90-4806 Preparation a property saviour