Though fires continue to burn close to Bodalla on various sides, but especially close to the east and north, the better conditions today (24 January) allow for a brief moment of reflection.
The bare facts for our community (Bodalla and its small hinterland) over 24 days are that three people are confirmed to have lost their lives; about 60 properties (my own estimate) have been lost; forests and the species living in them have been devastated; and hundreds have been supported through a concerted relief effort. This is a community in which so many people know so many other people - so the events have touched everyone in some way.
People around here are some combination of very busy, exhausted (physically and/or mentally-emotionally), and not quite sure what to do with their next hour or the rest of the day or their coming week. Plans go out the window at this time because people feel they are so subject to forces beyond their control. Yesterday threw many, as there was no gradation of warnings before people suddenly received a text saying it was “too late to leave; take shelter as the fire approaches”, and those who chose to get out quickly anyway to a nearby centre found that the evacuation centre was no longer an evacuation centre.
The circumstances have accentuated the very best in almost everyone. Some people have shown unexpected attractive traits that appear only under stress (and/or some unattractive ones too). Some have surprised by emerging as leaders or as volunteers that no-one knew. Most seem to have become deeply grateful to others around them and to people from elsewhere (fire brigades from hundreds of kms away; donors; their neighbours; many others). Most have formed new and deeper relationships across the community. Almost everyone has discovered something profoundly important about community in general, and this community in particular, that normally would take decades of “normal” existence to learn - or would never be learned.
That’s not to say that these bushfires are in any way a good thing. They are huge, terrible, scary, devastating locally and devastating globally. I hope that the wider community, in which we all participate, gains the insight and combined will to tackle the causes before there are too many other events just like this one.
Michael Brown, Bodalla