Here is an extract of Annie's compo letter to the guvmint. She wrote it a month or so later. It's interesting reading, if only to learn from the chaos that happens when wildfire engulfs a small town. If you have built (or you rent) a gorgeous hippy house that has not been 'passed' by the local council, at least let the fireys know where your house/shack/yurt/shed is. Make them put you on the map. Today.
To whom it may concern,
My name is Annie. I rented a house on Caves Rd, Margaret River for a period of six and a half years, paying the rent to XXXX, who’s responsibility it was to maintain the property and collect the rent. In July 2011 Scotty moved in and October 2011 Rachel moved in and shared the house with me.
During this time I was aware that the property wasn’t fire prepared and I often requested help from the landlord to clear the trees from around the house and the power lines, and also to repair the extremely degraded and eroded driveway, which was the only escape route in the case of a fire or emergency.
No help was ever forthcoming, and the fire risk became so extreme with the trees around the power lines that I decided to buy my own chainsaw, learn how to use it and with the help of good friends, began clearing the trees myself. I got a friend to cut down four 40 foot trees from around the power lines and I had several huge bonfires in winter, however I barely dented the surface. I went to see the fire chief XXXX at the XXXX Fire Brigade to see if any help was available to make the property safer. He rightly said that the task of a controlled burn in such a highly fuelled area was extremely difficult and that it would have endangered the neighbours’ properties, so I was sent on my way with no real solution. I would like to stress that I agreed with the fireys, and hold no grudge.
When the fire on November 23rd came through I was out at Sebbes Rd, servicing a car as I am a self-employed mobile mechanic. I got a call around 12 from my housemate Scotty. I arrived at the house around 12.30pm, after a call from my landlord asking if I was out yet. The fire was approaching rapidly from the north, the wind was swirling horribly and I knew it was bad, but for some stupid reason, optimistically thought I’d be back the next day and everything would be fine.
I grabbed 2 washing baskets, 2 blankets, 2 pillows, a swag, and the first lot of paperwork I saw. Unfortunately I couldn’t find my birth certificate. The fire was closing in. I rounded up my housemates, Scotty and Rachel, and my sister Jess and her fiancé Dan (who had come to check we were alright), and bolted up the hill for safety.
We all got out safely and headed for Jess’ house on Gnarawary Rd, where we were evacuated from (again) later in the evening, heading to town to stay for several days at our friend Katie’s house.
I found out that my house was destroyed by ringing my neighbour.
To this day I have not received a fire warning text message from FESA or DEC. The authorities didn’t even realise there was a house there until 5 days later, when Scotty spoke to someone from the Shire. We were completely unsupported by FESA to defend the house and property. Even in the aftermath of the fire, they were unaware of the house being destroyed and our lives put in peril. When we went to check out the damage 2 days later, there were still spot fires on the property and no support from the fire authorities.
While I understand the stress and workload the authorities must have been under, this experience has left me feeling abandoned and distrustful that the population can be protected from this extreme fire threat that the South west of Western Australia faces currently.
Since the loss of my rental, I have been staying in the backyard of a friend’s place in an old van that survived the fire. I lost the majority of my tools in the fire, as I had recently moved out of an industrial unit I was renting and had stored my tools under the house as there was no other storage room.
I am currently homeless relying on the generosity of others.
Enclosed is a list of the possessions that I have lost, not including the family heirlooms which are obviously priceless and irreplaceable. Scotty and Rachael also lost everything they owned.