Two Weeks Later

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Another week has gone past and much has happened.

On Tuesday we went back to the house and switched on the power. ACTEW had done a wonderful job reconnecting most of our street. They had some trouble putting new poles up in rock but the whole street was back in business by about Wednesday. I had turned off the electricity at the mains because we didn't know what was on when we left. When I threw the switch, lights all over the house came on, the radio started blaring away, the security system protested by turning the siren on and the fridge and hot water began returning to normal operation.

Lyndsey and I had a go at some cleaning, mostly vacuuming and clearing up the kitchen. The poor vacuum cleaner kept clogging up with the dust and ash, but at least it was dry dirt and the place began to regain its former familiar look, though the very smoky smell and the view out of the back windows kept reminding us of why we were still not sleeping there.

Wednesday morning we checked out of the Griffin Hotel. We had not been the only people staying there because of the fires. Displaced people and out-of-towners there to assist were being accommodated. While I was waiting to pay the bill, I overheard another couple discussing their booking. It seemed that they wanted to extend their stay but there had been a mixup with the insurance company and the hotel had not been informed. The hotel was fully booked, but that didn't stop them. The manager quickly sorted out the problem, not only extending their stay but also keeping them in the same room so they didn't have to move. I know that it must have been very difficult for them at the Griffin but they dealt with the problems quietly and efficiently.

Back at the house we started to lose the surreal feelings we had experienced in the hotel and reality settled in. We had a visit from an arborist who passed sentence on our 18metre deodar cedar tree. It had to go and the cost would be close to $900. That's for one tree, no stump grinding. Pity the insurance doesn't cover it.

Daughter Carolynne came round for the day and helped Lyndsey re-stock the fridge and provide much needed moral support.

I had been trying to carry on work via dial-in to the IBM system. Only one of our phone lines was working so I used that for the computer. Mobiles were used for talking to people. It was obvious that people at IBM and at our major client were working under difficult circumstances. Everyone had been affected by the fire and its aftermath, even if they lived in suburbs far from the bushfires.

Thursday was an extreme fire alert day. The winds were hot and dry. The house cleaners arrived for the morning, the Telstra technician came to fix the data line, and I decamped downstairs to the rumpus room where it is both cooler and tiled. The cleaners cleaned, steam cleaned and washed windows. The temperature hit 40C, the winds blew menacingly and brought back dark memories of the firestorm. ABC Radio 666 was on for most of the day as we listened to the progress of the various bush fires around Canberra. Carolynne came round again to assist Lyndsey clear up some of the mess in the garden. The wind was doing a good job of re-arranging the dust, ashes and topsoil, a lot of which ended up on the ladies.

Workmen were still tramping through the debris, fixing things and telling stories about their experiences. One had seen a young man sorting through the remains of a house and had challenged him, asking for some ID. The way the guy shot off, it was a good guess he didn't have much of a right to be there. Workmen have now been told to ask anyone seen rummaging around burned out houses for identification.

Thursday night we had a little more help from the firies. We saw flashing lights and fire engines from our decking. Ross sent us an email the next day: (Alex is his son)

Alex and I had to call the fire brigade around 10pm last night because we
discovered a burning tree stump that was well alight and showering embers on
the trees and bushes that had been deposited along Kathner Street.
There were also some embers coming across the road.The Fire
Brigade did a good job and hopefully that is the end of it!

The tree stump was burning down through the roots. Amazing, nearly
two weeks after the fire!

Friday was Hospital Day. After the chaos of my first visit to the fracture clinic, this was much more civilised and pleasant. Far fewer patients were booked in, the wait was much shorter and they told me I didn't have to have an operation. A fibreglass cast, an appointment for a CT scan and follow up visit in six weeks and permission to go back to work next week, all suited me fine.

Click photos for larger images

This is what my foot looks like to me today.

I did get a phone call from the ACT Disaster Recovery Centre about our tree and garden rubbish. The news was not good. Environment ACT were not providing assistance with tree clearing and the rubbish on our front lawn would have to be cleared away at our expense.

Come Saturday morning, Ross James worked his miracles again. On the phone to the gardening program on ABC Radio 666 he asked for volunteers with trailers and chainsaws. By lunch time all our front garden rubbish had been removed to the tip by willing and enthusiastic helpers. Other helpers assisted up and down the street and the whole place is looking a lot better, if you can call two short streets with eighteen burned out houses looking better.

This is Ian and Anne from Wanniassa helping to clear up in the front garden.

And this is Ian and Anne in the front garden after all the rubbish had gone, six big trailer loads later.
Other helpers, whose names we don't know also contributed.

Lyndsey, Anne and Ian ponder the mulberry tree. It's been pruned, but will it survive?

Carolynne and Scott also mucked in to help clear up. After the rubbish was removed, they stayed on to transplant what remains of the strawberries and rhubarb into pots while we work out what to do in the back garden.

I work in the IBM IT architect community and they had kindly sent round some plants to be fitted into the redesigned garden. Other IBMers and former colleagues have offered trees and bushes. We will need to do some thinking and planning before taking up these kind offers. We first have to sort out that tree.

Bernard and Lyndsey Robertson-Dunn's Canberra bushfire website
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