What did you do during the fire?

 I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I haven't been doing very much to help. I have obeyed warnings and done all I can around the house to minimise fire danger. What else can an older woman do in times such as these?

But I have been filled with total admiration for the firefighters.

I have seen them around town looking young, strong and brave but I bet they often wonder if somewhere a falling branch has their name on it, and are sometimes filled with fear when in the thick of it.

I have watched the helicopters filling up their buckets from the Joe O'Conner swimming hole and realise what risks the pilots take. These swinging buckets could so easily get out of control and that would be the end of the crew - no little accidents in helicopters!

The stoicism of local farmers who have had severe damage to their properties and livestock is very moving but somehow not a surprise. They seem to face all of Dorothea Mackellar's "flood, fire and famine" warnings with typically Aussie bush strength. I hope they are getting as much help as they need to feed remaining stock and to rebuild their assets.

I worry about unnecessary fires and, like most of us, am horrified at the thought of arsonists - or "flaming idiots” as my Dad called them. This is beyond my understanding; I guess it is some kind of illness. There are, it seems, still some lesser idiots who angle grind near dry grass, throw cigarette butts out of car windows or bottles into grass on the verges of roads and have no idea that they are almost as culpable as arsonists.

Other fools cannot help but try to get to the edge of the fire just to see what's happening - surely 'don't get in the way' is one of the golden rules of assisting. Mind you, I do know of one small family who went up to the ridge of town to reassure their frightened children that the fire was not about to burn them in their beds. This family did not get in anyone's way or get near the fire but was still accused by some locals of 'stickybeaking'. One needs to be careful when pointing the finger.

We should bear some thought for the killed, damaged, orphaned and displaced wildlife and thank those who are helping them. They also will need donations to assist them in this vital undertaking.

I think our NSW Rural Fire Service is doing a wonderful job - the best I can remember and, on behalf of us all, I congratulate them and all the wonderful volunteers. Thank you, all of you, for the fabulous and dangerous tasks you are performing for us.

Ann Holmes contributes regularly to the Webs, Weeds and Wisdom column.

Ann Holmes contributes regularly to the Webs, Weeds and Wisdom column.