Tag: Surf Beach
The monster is on its way to us at Batemans Bay.
We watch as the fire starts to spot in the industrial area. I’d been there earlier in the morning to buy some smoke masks — I’d find out later that several of the factories I visited had gone up in flames.
Traffic queues head out of town and line up at petrol stations. Hundreds have joined the exodus north. The only way out. The firestorm gathers pace. It’s lunchtime, but no one has eaten. Not the way any of us had expected to spend New Year’s Eve.
Only the night before my family been enjoying ourselves on the river bank of our farm — swimming, fishing and getting ready to welcome in the new year.
I had watched the fire on the horizon. It was a way off, but I had read every piece of information I could about wind, hotspots and predictions.
It was creeping forward but later that night came the warning that strong winds meant the village of Nelligen —and our farm — could come under threat.
We had already decided I would leave with my two young children. I have covered enough bushfires to know I did not want them there. My mother and brother had decided to stay and defend the property from ember attacks — my husband would join them.
I drove out with the children early in the morning, heading to Batemans Bay.
Liv Casben tweet
As the news of the evacuation started to filter through, my boss asked if I was available. I had my two young children with me and hadn’t slept. No one else from the newsroom could get there for hours.
My sister-in-law was already on her way out of town, but she turned back from driving north to pick them up and I went to work.
Snapping photos of the town I grew up in that was now under siege. The sound of sirens screamed through the streets. The fire ripped across the back of Nelligen through Runnyford and the top of Batemans Bay. I was working with a local stringer. He was a friend of my brother.
At every step this was personal. Nothing about the day was usual. Everything would take longer, comms were down.
On the beach
In Batemans Bay, we head to the water with hundreds more. For many this has become their only option.
I interview a man on holiday from Sydney with his young family. His wife is in the back seat with their baby. I offer them smoke masks. We hear gas cylinders exploding in the distance.
Sirens roar along Beach Road, near where my grandparents used to live, towards Surf Beach and beyond.
Down the road, the carnival — an annual event that symbolises holidays in this area — sits idle.
The fire pushes its way through the back of Catalina — spot fires are starting all around.
Mum rings, a family friend has lost his home at Runnyford. He speaks of “horizontal embers” and escaping by river to my mum’s.
They’re safe but his and the neighbour’s house have gone. My mum prepares her holiday cottage for them to sleep in. Thankfully the guests had rebooked a few days before for another time, heeding the RFS advice to avoid the south coast.
A woman tells me she has lost her factory in the industrial area and that she saw five houses destroyed in her street. She is overwhelmed. So am I. How was my family property? Should I be there instead?
Overwhelmed but safe
The southerlies start up and I know Nelligen will come under threat again. I call my husband — they’re helping to put out flames on a neighbour’s property.
Communications start going down. Power has gone. The volunteers at Marine Rescue Batemans Bay lend us their power and phone so we can get the story out.
My kids got back up north safely. They were OK but slightly spooked. Their mum and dad were both left behind.
I’m yet to return to the family property — I know it and everyone is safe but with phone and power still out.
But I need to see them and hear their reassurances.
I’m not alone.
More bushfire coverage:
- Live blog: Fires in NSW and Victoria still burning as communities prepare to assess damage
- Ferocious blaze rips through properties in idyllic Southern Highlands west of Sydney
- Alpine towns evacuate as firefighters deal with ‘double-edge sword’ of rain
- Bright orange, then pitch black as Qantas flight hits turbulence in fire’s cloud
- ‘Just magnificent’: Farmer fights back tears as ‘army of angels’ convoy arrives
- Eden’s wharf offered a refuge from fire, then police warned it wasn’t safe
- Farmers grapple with how to dispose of livestock killed in bushfires
- Morrison denies Facebook post an advertisement as he announces fires recovery agency
- NSW fires blanket Canberra in thick smoke, leading to orange skies and poor air quality
- Coming back from holidays? Here’s what you need to know about the Australian bushfires