This weekend has not been fun. It began with the dog bailing something up behind the heating unit outside the back door. I could see a beige looking triangular head just poking out so locked the dog and cat inside and began a furious search for a snake catcher. I finally found one but by the time he arrived the snake or whatever it was had gone.
That little exercise in futility cost me $150 but frankly I’m not complaining. If it had been a snake [as distinct from a lizard] and if it had still been hiding by the back door, I’m sure I would have paid twice as much to get rid of it. As it is I now know that a) snakes can move damned fast, b) they don’t respect boundary fences, c) snake repellers are a complete waste of money and d) snakes love my frog pond as much as my resident frog 😦
After weighing up all of the snake catcher’s advice I’ve decided to keep the pond because getting rid of it is not going to keep my block snake free, it will just make them thirsty while killing off a wonderful frog habitat. So the pond stays but I am going to do some clearing to make the rest of the block less appealing to snakes.
So that was Saturday. Sunday dawned overcast with little sign of the heat and wind that had been forecast. After the furkids and I did our normal morning inspection of the garden I went inside and checked the CFA website but there was very little activity so I relaxed and got to work. At about 1:30 pm a friend rang to ask if I’d been listening to the emergency broadcaster on the radio. I hadn’t because I did not think that there would be much fire danger. Wrong 😦 Apparently while I had been beavering away being creative a grass fire had broken out to the north and was being hurried along towards Warrandyte by the very strong north wind that had sprung up while I was not paying attention.
I raced out to the pump house and got both pumps going. Raced back and pulled down all the fire resistant shutters. Rang the neighbours. Raced out again and started up all the garden hoses to wet down key parts of the garden. Raced back in again and did what I should have done sooner which was to bring in all the flammable crap on the deck and outside the back door. Then we moved the two cars away from the house – just in case. Decided that it might be a nice idea to test the sprinklers on the roof. Got rather wet turning the valves on but everything worked as designed. Phew. Left the sprinklers running for about five minutes on each zone, especially the north and west zones. Then I turned them off and did something really hard… I waited.
Thankfully the grass fire to the north was downgraded to ‘controlled’ fairly quickly but I continued to keep watch like a nervous hound dog until the change came through, bringing with it a very welcome downpour.
Did I learn any lessons from Sunday? Oh yeah. I learned that all the safeguards in the world won’t save you if you are not paying attention. And I wasn’t. Despite being paranoid about bushfires I did what most other residents of Warrandyte must have been doing – I closed the heat out and forgot about the outside world.
Was it complacency? In part, yes but I think ignorance played a bigger role. I have not personally experienced a bushfire so while my head knows what to do my instincts don’t have a clue. Having that dress rehearsal on Sunday was the best wake-up call I could have hoped for because it highlighted the fact that we could have been engulfed without even knowing what had hit us.
So the number 1 lesson I have learned is to listen to the damn radio [ABC 774] on any day for which a strong north wind is forecast. Yes, listening to the cricket in between announcements bores me to tears. Yes, the programming distracts me from my work. And yes, 9 times out of 10 absolutely nothing will happen. But the 10th time is the killer. Literally.
There may be parts of Warrandyte that feel just like suburbia but anyone who thinks it is a safe place to be over summer is delusional. I shudder to think what might have happened if that grass fire had kept on coming. Some of the old timers would have known to take action but like me, most of the residents would have been taken by surprise. Followed by panic. Followed by having nowhere to go…
As I said, it was not a good weekend.