Six months on from the bushfires

Six months on from the bushfires

As winter sets in at Wairewa, residents of the small valley, which bore the brunt of the summer bushfires, have become resigned to the slow grind in getting their lives back to normal.

Yet, for Robert ‘Red’ Geddes, the past six months since the fires wreaked havoc has gone quickly.

“I don’t know where time has gone, it’s just disappeared,” he said.

“It’s soon going to be Christmas.”

It was only a few weeks ago that the burnt debris, which constituted his house and shedding, was removed from the site.

The cleanup effort took a week in all.

“They were very good once they got here and got cranking,” Mr Geddes said.

Men in full hazmat gear operating large machinery trawled the site. 

Each load of twisted metal and burnt material was trucked to a dumping site in Orbost in a 90-minute return journey.

“The worst thing was when the junk was still there, now it’s gone, it’s great,” he said.

“It’s done and dusted now,” he said, explaining how life is slowly returning to a sense of normality.

Roslyn, had only moved back to the property a couple of weeks earlier after staying with family in Lindenow.

Fortunately, for the couple, an old fibro cement sheet house that Mr Geddes’ late mother used to live in, was spared in the inferno. So, after some quick renovations, the couple are now occupying it.

“We had to get rid of a few termites, reline the bedroom  and get the water hooked up,” he said.

“We’ve put up a carport and a caravan as well.”

Mr Geddes, who was born in Wairewa in 1950, is grateful to friends and neighbours for helping he and his wife transition back into the community.

“Roslyn likes it back here. She was born here too.”

Mr Geddes said a friend from Drouin had lent him a tractor while another had provided a backhoe.

“The Camilleri boys and different ones have just been terrific. They’ve been and done different things and they’re still doing it,” he said.

“Everyone’s help has provided a sense of positivity.”

The Geddes have settled on an Anchor home for the rebuild and were last week waiting for their planning permit from East Gippsland Shire.

“We were going to build a house, but we didn’t want to muck around with getting builders and thought the tradies would be flat out,” Mr Geddes said.

“We didn’t want to have to compete for tradesmen.”

He said sewerage and soil tests had been completed and expects the house to be ready for occupancy about eight weeks after it arrives on site.

Anchor will spend about 10 weeks building the house offsite before transporting it to Wairewa, so by Mr Geddes reckoning, it should be ready to move into by the end of October.

“That’s what we’re hoping for anyway,” he said.

A small hitch is how Anchor will transport the house, in two halves, into Wairewa.

Mr Geddes says it’s too wide to fit through the historic O’Grady’s bridge, which was partially burnt in the bushfires, on the Wairewa road.

He says Anchor Homes is hoping they can come in via forestry roads.

“It might take them a bit longer,” he said.

Mr Geddes, who is now retired, has remained positive, chopping firewood from burnt and fallen trees on his small acreage.

“You’ve just got to get  on with it, what happens happens. If it doesn’t happen today, it will probably happen tomorrow,” he said.

“I think if you were sitting around with not much to do it would be dragging, but I’ve got plenty to do.

“You’ve just got to keep looking forward.”

IMAGE: Robert Geddes on his bushfire-affected property at Wairewa last week, is hoping to be in his new house by the end of October. K336-6460