Fourteen thousand two hundred and seventy. That’s the number of hectares that had been destroyed by the Cobbler Range fire at the time of writing.
No matter how huge an area that sounds, it is still just a number, and it wasn’t until I was high above the ground that it really hit home.
I was offered a trip with Ted McIntosh, a resident of Black Range Road, in his two seated plane and I jumped at the chance.
After taking off we were in the air roughly 20 seconds before we saw where the devastation got to and the containment line. Ted said he and his wife didn’t leave their property, they bunkered down at home.
If worse came to worst they had a pretty cool get-away vehicle, I thought to myself.
There was smoke still billowing from the sides of hills, and the odd stump still looked hazy, but everything else was, to put it bluntly, absolutely charred.
We flew from Ted’s all the way to Jugiong and back.
At various points during the flight, it was almost impossible to see land that hadn’t been damaged.
Ted pointed at things, and I continually took photos, but with the ear muffs on I heard nothing but my own thoughts. And all I could think about was the landholders, the stock, and what a couple of day’s chaos can do to such a picturesque place.
The containment lines were also interesting. It was fascinating to see where they started and often, if you looked hard, you could see why they started. Sheds, fences, and even some small houses could be seen dangerously close to land that had been completely destroyed.
Firemen and women had evidently stood their ground, and fought off something that could have been so much worse.
I got the thumbs up from Ted, he was ready to head back. Deep down I wasn’t, but I gave the thumbs up anyway and we turned for home.
A steady landing, a couple more photos and a handshake later, I was in the car driving back to the office.
What an experience.