My name is Angela Lowe
On Friday the 4th of January I was floating in Recherché Bay in the South West of Tasmania, on day 2 of a 2-3 week holiday of sailing and adventuring with David (my love) aboard Emily. As we arrived home to Emily from a rowing exploration of D’Entrecasteaux River, the threats of the potential dangers of bushfires loomed as we witnessed a smokey haze to the west. Making haste back toward the yacht to investigate the source of the smoke and stay safe, we were soon to discover that this was not the only fire burning in our lives at that point in time.
The night we departed the Peninsula from Cascades Bay at Koonya on the 2nd of January, we were unaware of any fires looming. The following day it became apparent as discussions about the pending Bream Creek Farmers Market (an local event that I assist in organising) and whether we should continue with the event due to fire risks in the area, was addressed via email. We were aware that a fire had started in Forcett and the Bream Creek community was at risk.
As we made our way back to the yacht on the evening of the 3rd, a dark feeling started to set in. It was soon to be confirmed through the local radio that not only had the heat of the day effected the south-west, but also that the conditions had blown the Forcett Fire out of control and toward our little community of Dunalley – the hub of the surrounding Forestier communities, if the fire was to jump the canal Murdunna and Somers Bay were the next communities at risk. As we listened closely it became apparent that things were not looking good. I started calling my friends and neighbours in the area, unable to get a hold of anyone, my heart started to burn with the fires. I soon discovered that some were already evacuated on Somers Bay Beach, waiting it out. A phone call to my dear friend and neighbour Rachel, that finally made it through, sporadically delivered the broken up words of a woman in the midst of a life threatening situation, “ok, here with Noni..?? embers and ash from the sky, waiting”. The signal was lost and the phone cut out.
It was an hour before sunset, I looked to the haze over the south-east and jumped into the ocean.
A jigger of gin to calm the nerves and David had the sails up – Murdunna bound. As the wind dropped out with our energy we tucked into Great Taylors Bay off Partridge Island at the southern end of Bruny. Exhausted, we fell to sleep like an anchor dropping to its hold.
I awoke like a dose of adrenaline had been administered to my body, immediately sitting up to search for the phone. Making my way to the cockpit, the Sun was showing itself to the east, I flipped the solar panel its way and started dialing Rachel and Jet’s number.
It was a relief to hear her voice, again broken up with the signal. “We’re at home”, my heart leaped at the thought that it might all still be there, but a tone in Rachel’s voice prepared me for the reality that there was more to come. “it’s pretty dire here Ange”, I start asking if everyone is ok, the house is on my mind but a little further down the list, “it’s gone Ange, it’s all gone”, I knew Rachel meant the house and the workshop but my heart didn’t sink, it kept searching for hope inquiring about our friends and their homes. Again, the phone cut out. Minutes later a text message arrived “Hey Gorgeous woman – your house has gone – I’m so sorry”
Confirmed – the house is gone, is everyone is ok? We still don’t know where some of our friends are, if they got out safely. Stuart had stayed to defend his home across the road from the Murdunna shop, the fire had come across with such speed and ferocity where was he now, who else do we need to find?