chapter  6
Engaging Women with Bushfi re Safety Issues
Pages 22

Having sold their house in the city, Miriam and John were committed to moving in to their new dream home in the Australian bush whether the builders had fi nished or not. As it happened the builders were still applying the fi nishing touches to the outdoor decking and the woodchips from the trees that had been hand-felled to clear the plot, were still piled up next to the house. As Miriam and John moved in that week in November 1997, so did a bushfi re. It swept across from the other side of the mountain, crept down, blew east and then west, backwards and forwards until the strong winds blew it along the escarpment just above Miriam and John’s new home. Eleven years later, Miriam remembered that night vividly:

We’d just moved in and John had gone to Canberra for work or something and, in fact, I think it was the fi rst or second night I was here. It was a really hot night. I was sleeping out on the deck and it was really smoky. I could smell smoke and I was here by myself. Then this car came belting up the drive really fast and it was our builder saying “There’s a fi re really close by and I thought I should come up”. Because the builder, of course, was building a house and he thought, “Oh shit, they’ve moved in, they’re going to be torched”. And it was pretty amazing; the top of the mountain one night was just like this huge fi reworks display. You know, the trees were doing those Roman candles where they kind of shoot sparks up through the trees, so it was just like there was this war going on. (♀ NSW Nov. 2008)

As fl ames and embers were “falling off ” the mountain, Miriam rang John and suggested he come back. By the time he got home, after negotiating his way through a police cordon that was blocking access to the fi re aff ected area, Miriam had packed and unpacked photograph albums and other treasured personal belongings into the car twice over a couple of days as the threat came, went, and came again. Miriam and John were thankfully not alone. During the space of that week, fi ve diff erent fi re crews visited their

property. However, the uncertainty of it all (one of the key psychosocial dimensions of risk) was exhausting.