A team game

ROBYN Thomas knows she has to be off the mountain with her family well before a serious bushfire threatens her home.

This message has been drilled into her through neighbourhood bushfire meetings and, in case she forgets, Ms Thomas keeps little reminders of what happened last time a fire came knocking on Fern Tree’s door.

One is a set of marbles fused together when the 1967 bushfire came roaring in from the north-west.

The house that used to stand on this site was razed to the ground.

Another reminder are jet-black parts of a Singer sewing machine soldered together by the fire.

“I can get quite anxious when I know hot weather is coming,” Ms Thomas said.

“But then I look out the window towards the mountain and the Organ Pipes and realise just how lucky I am to live in such an incredibly beautiful place.”

Ms Thomas moved to Fern Tree from West Hobart about 10-years-ago with her husband Julian and two boys, Tom and Bill.

“Over the years we have done as much as we can to create a buffer zone between our house and the edge of nearby forest, and we have a bushfire plan that we practice,” she said.

“Last year, we took down a large gum tree that had branches hanging within a few metres of the house.

“It was a beautiful big tree, and it was hard to watch it go, but it was too much of a fire hazard.”

The area around the house has been cleaned up from potentially flammable dry leaves and dead timber and the family garden is now home to less fire-prone native flax lilies and irises.

A vegetable patch put between the house and the forest edge acts as a natural firebreak.

Ms Thomas and her husband, a volunteer in the local fire brigade, have checked the house for gaps where fire embers could get in and sealed them off.

They also have large water tanks and a fire pump.

“Plan A is to not be at home if there is a severe or higher bushfire danger rating,” Ms Thomas said.

“In case we are caught unawares, and it becomes too dangerous to leave, our plan B is to make the house as defendable as possible.

“All families in our street participate in the Tasmania Fire Service’s Bushfire-Ready Neighbourhoods program that helps local communities plan and prepare for bushfire.

“We all get together to talk about what to do if a bushfire comes, how we will all react and what plans we have in place.

“Working together as a community helps us feel safer and more prepared for bushfire conditions.

“We set up a ‘telephone tree’ for high fire danger days to keep tabs on each other, and the local volunteer fire brigade has been very supportive in guiding us in how to protect ourselves.”

For help preparing your own bushfire-ready neighbourhood plan, visit bushfirereadyneighbourhoods.tas.gov.au.

Caption: Robyn Thomas at home with her sons Tom and Bill.

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About the Author: Eastern Shore Sun

The Eastern Shore Sun is your monthly community newspaper, reaching over 30,000 homes and businesses in the communities of Clarence and Sorell. It is the product of Nicolas Turner, Justine Brazil, Ben Hope, Simon Andrews, Tobias Hinds and guest contributors, with support from advertisers.

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