Planes flew over Petrina and Peter Buckmaster’s Goobarragandra property on Friday afternoon, dropping bright red retardant over nearby trees as landholders watched the skies and waited for updates on the extreme fire danger they’d been warned of.
Friday’s weather put fire crews and residents on edge, with predictions for significant fire runs from the Dunns Road Fire.
Petrina said she was prepared to stay through the fire and protect the home she and Peter had just finished building in 2018.
“The best preparation we have is to be in constant contact with the other people in our valley,” said Mrs Buckmaster, “And take the best advice from our fire crews up here.”
“I’m not going to pretend I’m not scared.”
Mrs Buckmaster stayed through Friday night, sleepless as she listened for updates on the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) scanner. It was a tense night, but Mrs Buckmaster said she felt well prepared by the RFS and well supported.
“They have been amazing,” said Mrs Buckmaster, “Visiting everyone and keeping everyone informed.
“We have spent a lot of time preparing our property, clearing and slashing all around our house and sheds, making sure there is nothing around that could cause an issue if embers falls, making sure we have ample water in our tanks, filling spray rigs, setting up hoses and sprinklers around our house.
“We made up kits in our laundry with all our fire clothes masks gloves goggles and etc.”
Also in the Goobarragandra, Terri Hobson was on alert Friday, making final preparations through the afternoon, prepared to leave if the fires turned towards her home.
“The guys will stay as long as they can,” said Mrs Hobson, “But I will leave with our animals.
“We may not have anyone else to defend our house, but we are mindful of how dangerous it can be.
“No house is worth a life.”
Mrs Hobson said she was amazed when “a lovely stranger,” a man from Adelong who asked to remain nameless, stopped at her gate earlier in the week and asked if there was anything he could do to help.
“He helped with some of the heavy work,” said Mrs Hobson, “He offered to come back with a mobile water tank and fire pump because we don’t have one operational.
“Friday he turned up with two of them!”
Mrs Hobson said the “lovely stranger” remained at their home on Friday, offering to help with ember attacks and potentially with defending the house.
“I’m feeling amazed by this community’s generosity.”
Close to 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Mrs Hobson watched a fire truck stopping at properties in the valley. When the fire fighters arrived at her door, they logged the number of people at home and helped advise them on how the fire might behave in certain paddocks or trees and which direction it would likely come through the valley.
Friday night, the Hobsons watched the “eerie” glow of the fire over the hills. The winds spooked animals, but the glow never turned into anything more threatening for the residents of the Goobarragandra.
At one point in the evening, the Hobson’s Good Samaritan rushed home to protect his own property as the fire made a run close to Tumblong.
Mrs Hobson said she was utterly relieved.
“We packed bags and our cars in anticipation for this monster to come,” said Mrs Hobson on Saturday morning.
“It was a really sad moment standing in a house full of memories and having to choose which ones to take and which ones to leave.
“Had a little teary moment there for a bit. What do you pack in a small bag?”
Mrs Hobson counted at least six fire trucks waiting at properties further up the valley all night. She says the trucks were “a big relief” for those families who would have been among the first to face the flames.
With a few days of calmer weather, the RFS will be conducting extensive back burning operations in the Goobarragandra area to protect homes and the pine plantation from the return of the fire threat.