In my last post, I told you how we used to live in a back-to-front house. This house faced a paddock. And in the paddock were lots of cows.
We loved watching those cows. They'd move slowly nearer and nearer to our house, munching the grass along the way.
One spring morning, we looked out of our window expecting to see cows and saw something far more exciting. Too exciting. It was a bushfire.
The fire was charging across the paddock eating up everything in its path. We could see the fire front moving parallel to our house. Its red flames were rearing high into the sky, igniting the trees in its path. As we watched, a water-bombing helicopter appeared through the smoke. It was Elvis, the Erickson Air-Crane. It dumped its load of water, slowing the progress of the fire, and then swung round and retreated. We assumed it was off to refill its tanks.
We ran outside to the garden and peered over the fence at the flames. Our neighbours, John and Patty, joined us. John had a mobile phone pressed to his ear. "He's speaking to his mother," explained Patty. "Her house is in the path of the fire." Everyone's eyes were glued to the fire.
A few minutes passed and then John took the phone from his ear. "The house is gone." He slumped against the fence post. "There's nothing they can do. They're running for safety." We looked at each other. We looked at the fire. We didn't know what to say. We bit our lips. We tried not to cry.
Later, on that smoke-filled day, John knocked on our door. "My mother's house..." He smiled. "At the very last moment, they saved it. A load of water from Elvis... Everything around the house is burnt to the ground but it's okay."
What wonderful news! Elvis had saved the day. Our mood changed instantly. We all grinned.
That bushfire swept through our paddock on November 10th 2002. I remember the date because that's our son Thomas' death day. We had trouble getting to the cemetery that evening because of road closures due to the fire.
In chapter 18 of The Angels of Abbey Creek, the Angel family visits Granny. Soon after they arrive, Lizzie looks out the living room window of Granny's back-to-front house and she sees a fire charging across the paddock. It's very much like our fire.
Once Dad is sure Granny's house is safe, he decides he'd better drive his family back to their village. He hopes they don't meet the bushfire on the way. And they don't. But they do see where it has been.
“Look at that!” exclaims Dad, pointing to a house surrounded by black ash. “The fire must have come right up to the front door. That water bomber helicopter must have saved the house. I bet a load of water was dropped just in time.” The firefighters have saved other houses too. It all seems rather remarkable..."
Our firefighters are magnificent people. If it wasn't for their bravery and skill, our home would have burnt down in another bushfire two years ago. But that's another story!
I don't have any photos of the fire which roared through our paddock. It all happened too quickly. We didn't think of grabbing our cameras. But I did find a short Youtube video showing Elvis filling its tanks (it takes 45 seconds) and then dropping its load of 9500 litres of water.
How did we get our name? I don't really know but it has nothing to do with Elvis Presley!
I wonder if your home has ever been in danger. Have you ever seen a bushfire? Or perhaps you've faced severe storms or an earthquake or another natural disaster?