The Fearless Heroes Beating Back Queensland's Monster Fires
Two nights ago I watched a bloke cry into his beer. A genuine, tough Aussie who lived off the land, who knew the land. What he didn’t know was how devastating the Deepwater bushfire was going to be.
His name is Dave.
As our conversation went on, perched on stools on the dark back deck of the pub, he broke down several times.
Dave fled his Deepwater home on Sunday and hasn’t been back.
He told me how he had to open the gate for his animals on his way out, and just pray that they’d be ok.
He’s not a religious man.
He told me how he’d never seen anything like this, how his greatest fear was that he’d have nothing to go home to.
We were at the Miriam Vale Hotel -- a watering hole for the weary.
Fire fighters, evacuees, support crews and us.
We were welcomed every night, just like everyone else, for dinner and a drink.
This particular night the firies were laughing, sharing a story and a smile.
The next night they could barely say hello -- every ounce of their energy stolen by the monster that raged in the Deepwater bush.
Dave got another beer. His neighbour is staying at the evacuation centre too.
He told me that, for the first time in his life, he asked for help.
A counselling service has been set up next door, staffed by the Red Cross and lifeline.
The first person he went to wanted to sit him down in the middle of the evacuation centre to talk.
He wanted somewhere private. The second person took him outside, away from those sleeping on make shift beds, for a quiet chat under a tree.
They spoke for two hours and he believes that conversation saved his life.
Dave came back from the bar. Smiling. Bursting.
He grabbed my forearm.
“You won’t believe it,” he said.
“They’ve saved my house. My house is still standing.”
He gestured at two, dirty, down-trodden looking firies sitting up at the bar.
One I had met earlier in the week.
They had been at Dave’s house that day. The property was black, they said, and he may have lost some machinery but his house was there, untouched by the Deepwater monster.
Dave stopped crying, took a sip of beer, and smiled again.
This is a fire that has all but destroyed a community on the surface.
But if you dig deep, the heart of Deepwater and Baffle Creek isn’t black.
It’s glowing yellow.
The colour worn by heroes.