It’s easy to forget that the men and women who step onto a fire ground leave behind families that await their return.
In some cases whole families work together leaving one family member to wait at home – sometimes, that’s the hardest part.
Louise and Tony Armour were one family whose lives fell apart when the 2014 Cobbler Road fire ripped through their property in Bookham. It took 95 per cent of their land and killed over 2500 livestock.
The Armours decided they would stay to protect their house. Before they had time to change their minds, escape was impossible.
“It was horrendous, terrifying - just absolutely terrifying,” Louise explained. “Given the road access you wouldn’t have even thought of leaving, it’s winding and tree lined, it was safer to stay in the open country.”
The fire burnt it’s way to the side and back of their house, only six feet from the walls. Louise and her two daughters pitched in putting out as much as they could.
“Initially we were all out on the ground, when it got closer Tony switched to fire fighting and the girls and I began battening down the hatches,” she said. “You go into autopilot, waiting for it to pass. I had a panic attack the moment I stopped, but you pull yourself together and get on with the job.”
Fortunately fire truck support wasn’t far away and they were able to contain the fire before it took the house.
“A fire is so intense, you can’t see a thing, the smoke, the flames, the wind, it’s terrifying,and the heat is just so powerful,” Louise continued. “… You wonder where your men folk are and the fact that you won’t know for hours whether they are ok is horrible, this when we had radios.”
Louise and her family have remained at Bookham, aware that an event like that could happen again.
Both Armour’s describe it as one of the scariest moments of their lives. But despite this, Tony continues to volunteer in the RFS, “It’s what you do, it’s the attitude of the bush, you help your neighbours and they help you right back,” he said.
For louise, she sits home with her girls listening to the radio while Tony heads out to the fire, often not resting until her husband does. People like Louise are common, that do their bit in their own way - baking for the volunteers, often into the early morning.
Women like Helen Heat that have to listen to anxious radio voices knowing her two sons and husband are among them. Or Lorrainne Grey who transcribes the radio chatter for hours on end.
Sally Kaufmann who raises funds year round, organises training and writes newsletters for the brigade. There are many such people who works behind the scenes and rarely get the recognition. Because of the bush mentality - ‘Help your neighbour’.