Back in 2016, the community of Northcliffe in Western Australia was threatened by a bushfire. It was touch and go for a long time, but the town survived.
It was a large fire, and it caused a great deal of devastation in the region. Thankfully it was sparsely populated and no one died. At the time, I was managing the local child protection office, and in emergencies we had responsibility for managing evacuation centres. Most of my day was split between trying to maintain our office function, while at the same time support the evacuation centre. Luckily we got lots of help.
I remember for a time we thought Northcliffe was going to survive, but the fire services did an exceptional job. I didn’t see much of the fire at the time, living about 50km north in Bridgetown. I remember though seeing the red glow of the fires against the clouds at night.
About two or three months after the fire was controlled, I went for a drive to some affected areas. It was quite a sight. Bush fires leave little behind except blackened trees. Even so, because the rains had come, some shoots of green were already appearing, which was a good sign.
While out walking I saw some smoke coming from beneath a log. There were a few small fires smouldering here and there, mainly where the water couldn’t reach them. I looked under the log and saw the interior was still burning away, with rings of ash. It was like the inside of the log was being eaten by some kind of fiery creature. I was rather surprised it could burn so well after so long.
Thankfully, the Northcliffe Fire was the only major emergency we faced while I was there. Some communities to the north were not so lucky when fire struck them about 12 months later. It was a stark reminder to me of the potency and power of nature, and never to never forget, like the burning log, that the threat can linger.