It is more than a decade since Black Saturday.
In February 2009 a bushfire ripped through the area surrounding Kinglake, a town not far north of Melbourne. It killed 173 people and remains Australia’s deadliest bushfire incident.
But Kinglake is at risk again.
Image: Kinglake is home to Australia’s deadliest bushfire incident
Mikey Libreri has lived in the town his entire life. He takes me through the dry bush around his house and points to the ridge.
“The flame height about 300 metres from here was up to half a kilometre high.
“A fire of that intensity – nothing could have stopped what happened.”
The fires scorched the area. But the bush has regrown, making conditions as dangerous as they have been since Black Saturday.
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“We’ve ended with so much more fuel now,” Mr Libreri says. “Because we’ve got standing dead timber, fallen dead timber, and then we have all the saplings coming up that are now 10 years old and big enough to be decent kindling.
“So you’ve really got the perfect tinderbox.
“So if it was something slow burning, yeah, we’re stuffed.”
Image: Kinglake was destroyed by bushfires in 2009
The threat of the return of fires has unnerved people in Kinglake, who have worked hard over the last decade to put their town together.
As towns and villages across Australia have been devastated in the current bushfire season, Kinglake is an example of how places recover.
A new Country Fire Authority station sits in town – when we visit, its flag is at half mast – and conducts regular drills.
Image: Locals have rebuilt the town over the past 10 years
The houses that replaced burnt out properties were built to much higher standards. Mr Libreri’s house slopes down to present a small front – and hopefully greater protection – against where fires are likely to come. The glass in his windows is extra thick and completely sealed.
In town, the petrol station was replaced. But some shops never reopened. Recovery is not necessarily a linear process.
“A lot of people who lived here in 2009 have since moved away.” Mr Libreri says. “For various reasons of course. Some people just couldn’t deal with it. others cut their losses in some respect. But we’ve had a lot of new families move into the town.”
Image: The fires in 2009 killed 173 people
There is also the psychological recovery. The hardest part can come long afterwards, once the cameras have gone away and the relief operation is at an end.
Sylvia Thomas worked as a counsellor for the victims of Black Saturday, eventually moving here from Melbourne.
“When life is supposed to go back to normal, and nobody’s taking notice any more – yes, absolutely [that’s difficult].
“A lot of marriages broke down, there were suicides, and probably in that aftermath period more than anything.”
The memory of Black Saturday hangs over Kinglake. Now there is a the new, grim fear that memory might become reality once more.
Source : Sky News