Written by Killian and Robyn Fitzpatrick

Photographs by Killian Fitzpatrick


February 7th 2009 AD
Marysville, Victoria, Australia
Killian & Robyn's story


Part 1 - Black Saturday - What a Day!
Part 2 - The Oval - The Immediate Consequences!
Part 3 - The Aftermath - The Horror Sets In, But Not The Enormity!
Part 4 - Six months on - The Bubble Bursts!

Part 1


We would like to share our experiences of "that day" with you, and maybe by doing so we will be able to "let go" of some of the memories, and you may be able to better understand some of what we went through. Each person's situation and experience was different on the day, but here is ours.

Looking back over the notes in the diary, we remember that January was a very hot month. We had noted that in Marysville the week from Australia Day, (26th January), and onwards, the temperatures had been extreme - between 43 and 48 degrees. In fact these temperatures continued right up to Saturday 7th February, when they were exceeded. It had been hot in Melbourne but hotter still up here in Marysville.

Our township lies in a valley at the base of the mountains which surround it. In summer the heat is often trapped in the valley during the day, however, almost always, we get a cooling breeze in the evenings, to help us sleep through the night.

Killian was taking advantage of this heat, to finish off the re-painting of our home. He had done a super job of painting our bedroom, and it looked terrific - all we needed now was some carpet. I can now have a chuckle about Killian's comments regarding the painting: "I am making a very special effort with this painting job, so that it probably won't need to be done again in our lifetime". True words!

After our bedroom was completed, Killian continued on with other painting jobs using the same careful effort. Next it was the front verandah's turn. When we left home that Saturday morning, we still had drop cloths and bits 'n pieces on the verandah, which were needed to protect the decking, during the completion of the painting 'makeover'.

The weather forecast for Saturday 7th was one of extremely high fire danger. Temperatures were expected to reach the high forties, plus. Very strong winds, and a possible wind change in the afternoon, were also forecast. The whole State of Victoria was under a very high danger period of severe fire risk; on alert; ready to engage fire plans if needed.


When we awoke at approximately 7.00 am, it was already 32 degrees, and by the time we left for Healesville at 9.00am the temperature had reached 39 degrees. There was an ominous feeling that today was going to be a bad day for someone, somewhere, in Victoria. Just where could not be discerned. It could have happened anywhere! And it did! There were many fires in the State on that day!!

We spent the morning in a nearby town called Healesville, where we both had appointments for haircuts at 9.30 am. Once that was completed we did other mundane things like meat, vegetable and grocery shopping. When all else was done, we called in to organise having carpet laid in our bedroom on the following Monday morning. Having completed our chores we decided to drive directly back to Marysville. It was far too hot to dally around, having coffee or the likes.

We drove home through the Black Spur road - scenically stunning, with huge Mountain Ash trees and Tall Tree-Ferns - a delight to be seen. When we turned onto the Marysville Road, we noted a large number of cars heading out of town - towards Melbourne. Killian commented that these tourists were heading in the wrong direction - away from our beautiful town, instead of into it! Little did we know ..!

We continued our journey home, then unpacked our shopping. The heat by this time was very oppressive and there was a moderate wind blowing. Robyn decided to do some washing as it should dry quickly in these conditions. In fact she got all of the bed linen washed and dried, and put back onto our bed in the same afternoon.

We somehow both felt uneasy and decided to put our emergency fire-plan, first stage, into action. No rush. No fuss. Just casually getting our preparations in order. Just in case! This involved putting together some extra food to put into our Jayco camper trailer; filling 2 x 20 litre containers with drinking water; putting them into the back of the Toyota Prado; along with our generator, photo CDs, personal files and other bits and pieces. All of these were in our garage along with Robyn's Ford.

We found our two cats, Blossum and Cleo, and brought them inside the house. Killian also brought their large Cat Carrier inside.... just in case! Killian went back to the garage and lined up the tow-ball of the Prado with the camper trailer so that it could be dropped onto the car in just a matter of a minute or two if required. Meanwhile Robyn packed a few pieces of underwear, our Bibles, and a few other essentials, and put these bags just inside the front door, in case we needed to grab the cats and run. If it became necessary to leave in a hurry! The keys were in the front door, and the camera was on the hall stand, next to the front door - where it always 'lived'.

We then went back inside to our kitchen where Robyn made some late lunch for us. Robyn had been tracking fires on the computer on the CFA and DSE websites. We were aware that there were a number of fires around the state, but all were a long distance away from us. So.... no real concerns for us as yet!


After lunch Killian continued with our Fire-Plan - filling the bath and laundry tub with water; placing large 30 litre buckets of water on both the front and rear decking - with mops in them - for dousing out embers if any were to land; and blocking the gutter downpipes so that we could fill them with water later on.

Standing on the footpath outside our garage, we could now see a large voluminous smoke cloud, which seemed to be looming in the west. From the website, it seemed obvious that this smoke must be from the Kilmore fire which was many kilometres away from us, and across the other side of the Hume Highway. When we next checked that column of smoke, we noted that it had started moving more toward the north west, and it was still growing in size and depth. The main column was still from the west, but there seemed to be an off shoot from the top of the column of smoke, and that was now starting to slowly move side-ways from the main column.

Once again we checked the websites and learned that a fire had started at the Murrindindi Mill site. This was closer to Marysville, and to the north of us, but still many kilometres away. Although still unperturbed by this, we were starting to take a bit more notice, however when we next went to check the fire website, these websites had shut down. Robyn came out to let me know that there was no further information available from them. Later on in the afternoon the power went out altogether, as did the telephones. Still later, the mobile phone tower also went down. All Communication now lost!

We had done all that we could think of to be prepared for "if the worst was to happen". Killian quietly picked up his camera, and went all around the house - inside and out - taking photos. Is he obsessed with this hobby or not! It did seem like the right thing to do - just go on like normal until there was something definite that we could do. It really seemed impossible that Marysville could have a problem. Marysville had never had a fire before this. A fire in Marysville was unthinkable really!!

Having done all this, we went back to completing our fire preparation, before going for a walk to see what was happening at the CFA* & SES* buildings. We should make mention - this walk never eventuated. While Killian was on the ladder at the front of the house, filling the gutters with water, he saw a large cloud of red and orange smoke rise straight into the sky in the distance. This plume was rising from the southwest direction - the very opposite direction, and it was growing very very fast. This one was coming from behind our house!

Robyn was holding the ladder steady so I told her what I saw. We both ran to the back of the house. The smoke had intensified rapidly but it still seemed quite a distance away. Robyn dashed inside to change into long cotton pants, shirt and runners.

CFA* = Country Fire Authority {i.e. Fire Brigade}
SES* = State Emergency Services


This was at about 6.20pm, and our daughter, Joan, phoned to have a chat. Robyn had to cut her off short because we didn't know what was happening outside. We told her that "we can't talk now, something is happening" to which she asked "what?". We told her that a fire might be coming our way soon., but we had no true conviction of this. We planned to call her back a little bit latter on.

(Later we were to see that Joan had tried to phone us back on our mobile. The time recorded on the mobile's message was 6.25pm. We assume that this must have been the time that "OUR" fire started).

Robyn came back outside and we both picked up the hoses, and started watering the garden. Then a couple of small pieces of ash fell onto the paving. Robyn stamped them out. Suddenly it got extremely hot, and extremely noisy. We moved backwards toward the house, still with hoses in hand. Then this "Great Red Thing" hit us. The sky went black. There was a most incredible screaming engine noise - like a massive jet engine roaring. It was like we imagine a nuclear explosion to be like. Someone has since described it as a "fire tsunami".

In the few seconds which we were outside the house, with this flameless 'fire' surging towards us, Robyn's eyebrows and lashes were singed and burned, and she could feel all the moisture being sucked out of her facial skin. Both of our mouths went very dry from the heat.

The garage, which seemed so close before, may as well have been a hundred miles away now - at this point in time. If we had tried to run to the cars to escape, we would not have made it. We would have suffocated to death in the effort. Two more would be added to the death toll!

We threw ourselves inside the sliding back door and watched in horror as the trees in the back garden just burst into flame - instant ignition! No gradual smoke and flame here! Just an absolute inferno. An explosion of flame! Killian closed the kitchen window blinds to reduce the likelihood of the window glass exploding in onto us, and to try to reduce the radiant heat.

Shortly afterwards, when we were safely inside our house, we peeked out the kitchen window and saw our canoe disappear - in one great flash. A brilliant white light! Next our wood sheds, then the garden sheds. Everything was just bursting into flame. Shortly after that our back verandah caught fire.

Killian took some photos through the kitchen windows. The time of the first photo taken from inside was 6.55pm. Already this fire had spent half an hour burning our back garden, trees, shrubs, retaining wall, clothes line, garden settings and now it was working on the house. So much for the theory of the fire front passing by in 10 to 20 minutes! Maybe this was not the fire front, but the pre-fire storm?


We stood in the kitchen and spoke about the situation. In our earlier plans we had anticipated plenty of time for escape. Our plan was to take ourselves and the cats to the garage and drive off, to safety, with campervan in tow - well ahead of any fire. Our plan was not to stay and fight, but to leave if fire threatened the area.

It was a surreal situation. Even with all that we could see around us, for some reason we still did not feel totally threatened. Not yet anyway. We thought "this too will pass"!

Sometime later, I'm not sure of the exact time, Killian noticed a bright light shining beneath the hall door which leads to the laundry and our back bedroom. By this time the electricity power had failed, yet somehow we had forgotten that the power was out, and thought that we must have left a light on, behind the door, in that hallway. Stupid, isn't it! Very short memory! Yes you guessed correctly, the back room was engulfed in fire.

Laundry and visitor's bedroom at the back of the house

We had a number of skylights in the house. The one in this laundry hallway had melted and flames were pouring down onto the vinyl floor covering. Along with the flames, the black tar insulation paper, and the fibre-glass insulation bats were also melting into the house, pouring down and leaving their trail, making one big burning mass. This was all dripping down onto the floor. The vinyl floor beneath it was now ablaze, with the melting mass, and pouring out poisonous fumes and thick black smoke. This area of fire was spreading quickly, out-running our efforts to stop it.

Killian threw a few buckets of water towards the skylight and also onto the floor, but it quickly became obvious that these efforts were an utter waste of time and energy. So, he closed the door to contain this part of the fire. Maybe we could save the rest of the house?? Mentally, this shut out the fire!

We went to check out the situation from our bedroom window, at the front of the house. Not much encouragement there! The garage was ablaze, as were all of the trees and gardens. So much for the cars and campervan. This would have made for a good photo, with the red and purple-blue of the flames, and the garage walls billowing outward. However, for us, this did not make for a very pretty picture - the flames were headed toward the lounge room and our main bedroom!

Now we knew that we were in trouble! We went into the Study room where we had put the cats, in their basket. Robyn tried repeatedly to contact 000, (our emergency assistance phone number). She used both the Mobile and the landline, dialling, for over 30 minutes, but was unable to get through to an operator. On hindsight, this was not surprising, considering the extent of the fires on that day.


The following Monday Killian was greatly angered to read a newspaper report claiming that all emergency calls were answered within 75 seconds. We don't believe that an automated response, saying that you are in a queue, is a genuine response to an urgent need! Anyway, enough about that! This is only one of the untruths which were to be expressed in the days to come.

Our next drama was in our lounge room where we had a bright white glow appear in the hallway, from under the lounge-room door. Having obtained a degree of intelligence from the earlier experience, we felt it quite unnecessary to open the door to investigate. The power was off! We were now almost up the creek without a paddle - and minus our canoe.

Without any warning, the front hallway sky-light melted, and started dripping flaming plastic onto the vinyl floor covering. The result was, as you would expect from our previous experience, another fire-front was established inside our home!!! From the intensity of the bright white light under the lounge room door, it seemed obvious that the largest sky-light we had in the house had also melted. It must be doing a fine 'fire work' in our lounge room!

Hallway looking to kitchen & back of house. Lounge door to left. Blinds all drawn to block heat.

From lounge doorway, facing hallway, Bathroom & toilet doorways.

By this time the fire was truly encroaching on our safe space. It had taken over the entire back garden, our back verandah, our store room, the back visitor's bedroom and the laundry. It had also done its work in the kitchen, and inside the lounge and dining rooms. We checked out our position from the main bedroom windows again - at the front of the house.

The car garage fire was now "warming" the external walls of the dining room. We could also see that the trees all around us were alight - not only on our property, but across the road, at the park, and in the driveway beside us. In different circumstances, this would have seemed like another beautiful photographic opportunity. Not so, when it is your home and your castle!

Through the study windows we could see that the weather-boards on this side of the house were now burning - beneath the bathroom, and toilet windows. Our hall front door was directly opposite our study so we could see through the glass that all the trees in our driveway were now on fire. Such beautiful trees! So many rare ones - like the two Alaskan Cedars on our front footpath. The magnificent Copper Beach in the driveway at the back. Magnolia trees. Rhododendron trees. Tri-coloured beech and that beautiful maple .... All gone!


Where to from here? We were now almost trapped in the study because of the smoke and the flames. Difficult to breathe and to see!! Killian repeatedly filled the bucket with water from the bath, throwing water up into the hall skylight and down onto the burning vinyl floor. It was a losing battle! By now our energy levels had dropped dramatically. So had our breathing ability! But wait ..... What was that? .... a fire truck arriving to save us? .... No. Just passing by! What now?

To help understand our position we should describe in a little more detail the layout of our house. The Study had two other doorways alongside its doorway. One led into the toilet - or closet as the Yank's call it; the other one led into the Bathroom - where our filled bathtub was our only source of water now. So here we have three doors directly beside each other. Opposite the bathroom door was the closed door to the lounge room. Our third sky-light was in the hallway, halfway between the bathroom and the lounge room doors. By this point in time all three of the sky-lights were bringing the fire into the house!

The smoke was so black and getting thicker. Killian became "lost" in the hallway - between the 3 doors. Disorientated as to which way he should go. Confused in the black smoke. Robyn was frantically yelling and shining the flashlight around. Killian finally got his direction right, and almost fell through the doorway to the Study. Gasping. Burning eyes. We would not have believed that it was possible, in your own home, to loose your way. We now know it to be a fact. Not a nice moment for either of us!

Three doors - three rooms - three sets of windows!

As Killian stumbled into the study he realised that he was seriously affected by the smoke and had no energy left. We could now see the outside walls of the study were on fire, and hear the crackling of fire on the rafters in the roof space above the study ceiling. Funny though ... those pink 3.5 insulation bats were working! We had put them into the wall cavities, as well as in the roof space. Despite all the flames, fire, heat and smoke, the Study was not yet unbearably hot, although the air was toxic! What thoughts one has in times of stress! We had even forgotten that the fire was inside the roof space. We were concentrating only on the "outside enemy"!!

It was now time! Time for decisions! Serious decisions!! Time to decide what to do! We knew that we would not survive inside the house for very much longer because of the acrid black thick smoke. And the flames. And worse - we were now in a position where we might be trapped or killed by a burning collapsing ceiling and roof!

During the course of the fire we had done all the usual things. Wet tea towels worn tied around the nose and mouth. Bath towels - oh no!, not those beautiful new ones! - soaked and put on the floor to prevent smoke coming in under the doors. May as well put the new good ones to some use. Two lives are worth more than two towels. Towels on the cats' basket too.


Now we were lying on the floor in the study, trying to get the best air we could. Wondering 'what next'? Taking each breath was difficult and painful. How much more could we cope with? Thankfully, we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we know that He keeps His precious promises. Therefore, we knew that our best option was to ask Him for help, and what to do next!

Our prayer was: "Dear Lord, if you want to take us home today, would you please do so quickly. (Killian isn't one for pain). Lord, if you have further work for us to do here, then it is up to you to get us out safely. In our own strength we cannot make it." Whatever was to be, we wanted it to be according to God's Will and purpose.

We were down to our last breaths and minutes if we had not left straight away. We could see lots of flames outside the glass front door now. Little choice left! We sensed that God was telling us to go! We anticipated breathing our last when we opened the front door, as the garage, trees, and everything else were enveloped with flame and heat. We expected the flames to rush inside the house as we ventured outside. What a sight was coming!

The seat of learning and much wisdom?

The door of protection!

Our Study!

Killian picked up the cat basket and slung his camera over his shoulder. Robyn grabbed the handbag and picked up two of the bags, which had been packed earlier. We both took a deep breath and opened the door. You can imagine our surprise when the flames moved backwards. Away from the front door! Opening up a clear way for us to get out of the house! Talk about God's Grace!

As we moved out from the study, onto our front verandah, with the fire moving away from us, the front door slammed shut behind us! There was no going back for the other bag! It was just waiting there inside the front door, but the message was for us to leave! Don't go back for anything! We were out of the house! Safe and sound! From the frying pan into the fire! [God must still have work for us to do!]

The heat outside was so intense that we stayed in the corner of the verandah, closest to the front door, until the Laser light section in the roof above us, suddenly melted. It dripped and dripped, landing on one of the heavily padded lounge chairs, belonging to Robyn's Mum and Dad, and on which our cats enjoyed sleeping. There was no smouldering! Immediately the chairs burst into flame! So fast! It was as though there was total, and immediate, and complete combustion happening on the verandah.

We hurriedly made our way to the edge of the verandah, and sat down on the stairs, until the heat from underneath made it too hot to remain there. At this moment the lounge room went up. What an explosion of flame! That was it now - only our bedroom left! No carpet required for this room now!!!


Our plastic bucket, on the front verandah - full of water, which was ready for any potential ember attacks, was still there. The drop cloth curtain which Killian was using for the painting, now came into its own! With the intense heat and smoke, we used it as a shawl, to protect us. It required constant dunking in the bucket to try to keep it wet.

All of the trees across the road were on fire and our garage containing the Toyota Prado, the Ford, the Camper trailer, fuel and lots of other goodies was bulging - like a balloon - at the seams; and glowing a bright orange-red. The heat was massive. Everything was so much more intense outside the house.

Suddenly the rest of the house exploded into flame! Now there was no choice but to move into the front garden. It seemed that all was lost, but both of us - and our cats - were still alive!

Carrying our possessions we sheltered behind a Golden Beech tree, planted in the middle of the front garden. There we sheltered from the red hot sparks and breeze. We played "hide and seek" around the base of this tree depending on the direction of the wind, still needing the wet curtain to help keep us safe. Eventually the Beech became too hot to touch, so we moved to the end of our driveway carrying our red plastic bucket of water, the two cats, camera, 2 bags, and the handbag - all with our wet curtain wrapped over us like a shawl.

Aftermath of the fire on the car garage!

Remnant of our bedroom facing the Golden Beech

By now there was heavy smoke everywhere, so we just sat and waited and prayed. A couple of cars drove past, not stopping, although we stood and waved the flashlight at them. Perhaps in their panic, with the thick smoke, and with burning trees falling across the road, they didn't see us. Could be one of many reasons. We must confess that it would be very difficult to know what we might do, especially if the car was full of people; and being scared out of your wits. So let us not judge - unless you have personally been in this situation.

Killian took photos of these vehicles, and the times recorded were 9.05pm and 9.07pm. This gives us some idea of the time line. We must have been house bound from about 6.20pm, for well over 2.5 hours. Including from the verandah to rescue, it must have been more than 3 hours! Of fire, and black, thick, poisonous, choking smoke!

A little later a DSE slip-on (a truck with a cabin for 2 and a tray with fire fighting equipment on board) drove towards us, heading up Falls Road. They stopped when flagged down by flashlight. They asked us what we were doing there?! Surprises all round! There was no room in the cabin for us so they suggested they could shelter us, while we walked alongside the truck. This we only just managed to do!


They reversed about 150 metres back down Falls Road, dodging the fallen and burning trees across the road, and at the entrance of Gallipoli Park. Our lungs were full of black gunk from our experience inside the house fire, and we were almost collapsing from exhaustion.

The cats in their basket seemed to weigh a ton, so eventually the truck stopped while Killian threw the cat basket on top of the fire fighting equipment on the tray. This was the longest 150 metres we have ever walked. When we finally got to the Gallipoli Park entrance we walked down, or more correctly, we stumbled down to the Football Oval, where we joined with other fellow survivors. This is the end of our time spent "in the house, alight with fire"!

In all of this there was no panic, just a surreal calm and sadness as we worked out each step of the journey. It is only on hind sight that the fear and terror of it all comes back.

That precious life-saving red plastic bucket with water!.

The front of our house as of 8th February!


Part 2


The Oval was thick with smoke and a few more people were starting to slowly gather there. We really do not know the time, but it must have been sometime after 10pm by now. People came in cars, on foot, alone, or with others, family groups, and friends. There were lots of dogs and a few cats - apart from our two 'girls' (Blossum and Cleo). There were some other pets too. A lot of the residents had their vehicles and some had packed up their most valued possessions. There were "officials", and there were ordinary people, of all ages. Just a small community gathering!

Although there were DSE and CFA trucks all in the centre of the Oval, it was clear that the risks in trying to fight this inferno were such that those who would be fighting the fire would be placed under unreasonable safety risk themselves. So they stayed put. It has been said that even with a fire truck outside every home, there would still be no way of stopping this fire storm, or the fire which followed.

As we entered Gallipoli Park we walked around a very large, still burning tree, which had fallen across the roadway. It was good to be greeted by Lachlan - our local GP. He had badly damaged his arm while trying to put out some embers and flames, on his neighbour's house. He was obviously very distressed and in tears, so a big hug was in order - for all of us! It was good to realise that we were not on our own in all this mess.

Marysville has only bottled gas - not mains gas. Many of the gas bottles were venting, and some were simply exploding, all throughout the night. Some made an amazing show of colour as the gas ignited with the flames, which then just shot straight upwards. It could be likened to a fireworks display of the greatest magnitude, and with thunder or jet engines racing around in the background. Very sad to sit and watch the town which we all loved so much just go up in flames, smoke and noise!

The trees all around the Oval were now in flame, and some of the huge Gum Trees, (100 metres plus), were just toppling over like matchsticks. The wind just picked some of them up out of the ground by their roots, and dropped them wherever, before those trees could even catch alight! Strong breeze!

The Gallipoli Park Hall caught alight and was left to burn - a bit disappointing, as we could have sheltered in the hall later that night. However there is some rule about not using the tanker water when people are present - in case they need to be protected at a later time.

Some time later our friend, Rod, came towards us - guided by Lachlan. At first we did not recognise him. His hands were burned and had been bandaged by Pamela at the Crossways Inn - which is situated at the junction of Marysville and Woods Point roads. Killian asked Rod where Liz and his boy's, James and Matthew, were. He replied that they were gone. We asked him if they were in the crowd that left earlier to go to Alexandra. He just answered "No, they are gone". We asked him again what he meant - thinking that his shocked condition may have been playing tricks with his mind. At this point Rod said "They are all dead!"

This news was like a slap across the face. A lot of those present at that time reeled backwards in shock. We couldn't comprehend that only yesterday Killian and some others had helped Rod finalise the family move into Nanda Binya - their new home and business. Killian had helped Rod with moving a piano for Matthew. An awkward job. Now it would not be needed - or indeed available!

Rod was in deep shock and quite dehydrated - he really required urgent medical assistance. Our local GP was about, but he wasn't able to do very much for Rod. There were no medical supplies here!


Medical supplies were in very short supply! The Clinic had burned down too, along with almost every building along the rest of the street. We gave Rod some Panadeine Forte for his pain, and laid him on the ground to rest. Later on we moved him into one of the DSE vehicles, in the hope of keeping him warmer. Some time later Lachlan reappeared with some bottles of water, so we started on the night's efforts of rehydration. Lachlan later came back, this time with some electrolyte fluids. These went down with good effect on Rod - better than straight water.

Rod started to settle, but he was quite confused at times. His night was not a comfortable one! Like for the rest of us! He was getting a lot of leg cramps so we had to frequently get him up, and walk him around. Also like the rest of us, he could hardly see out of his eyes because of the heat and smoke irritation, apart from all the smoke still present in the air. The fires continued to surround the oval. All of us had very sore, red, stinging eyes, requiring frequent washouts with water - when possible!.

We shared the care, tending to Rod for most of the night. This was difficult for Robyn as she had to take Rod's full weight when lifting and lowering him to the ground, or trying to walk him to get rid of the leg cramps. During that night two of her lumbar facet joints snapped. Unbeknown to her, in the not too distant future Robyn was to require serious spinal surgery. Lying on the ground was really very bad for her and she is paying dearly for it now. Doing the hard yards six months on!

Killian's lungs were so full of gunk that every time he lay flat on the ground he awoke choking, and needing to sit upright, so that he could breathe. At one stage we tried sitting back to back, supporting each other, in the hope of gaining a little sleep while sitting. Sleep was very elusive that night - for all!

We heard the constant explosions of houses, gas bottles, window glass, all night long, and there was no abating of the thick black smoke everywhere. It was particularly sad watching the historical buildings, such as Marylands, just going up in flames. How many honeymoons had there been just in this one property?! Then there was the time share property - Kerami Resort. It had flames reaching for the sky when the gas tanks exploded into flame. Conrad's wood pile was another source of interest, colour, and sparks, as it burned - and for so long! It provided some light, and some distraction for us all - for a time.

A lot of the people were wandering about, trying to fill in the time. We wandered from one group to the next, always encouraging each other, with lots of hugs and tears. Lachlan and Michael went off wandering down the main street to see what was happening, and to see what was left. Each time they would come back with somebody new, whom they had collected along the way. Apart from Rod, they also found John Cartwright sheltering in his neighbour's empty pool, and brought him to the oval.

The camaraderie of the group was wonderful - caring for each other. Everyone supporting everyone else. No barriers. We were all in this together. It will be a very long haul before normality returns. Let's hope that in the long term, with renewing Marysville, this attitude continues.

There were many encouraging and reassuring people - like Ian Thompson - one of the local policemen. He moved about us all, and left us with a positive feeling of care and safety. He did not even know how his own family was. There were heaps of others too, such as many of the CFA and DSE people. One thing we noticed - this fire was an absolute leveller - we all had gone through it, each in different ways, and we all had lost property. Some had lost family too. I think that we all lost some very precious friends that day. Such a small close knit community, such a high death rate. Approximately 40 friends and residents died that night - out of about 500. So sad! All will be sadly missed, and greatly missed.

Glen Fiske, our local CFA Captain, was also on the oval, that night. Glen had been trapped in the SES building until now. Kellan, his eldest son also belongs to the CFA. He was fire fighting elsewhere. They didn't yet know the situation of the rest of the family - that Liz, and youngest son, Dalton, had died. The whole family were great, and highly regarded by the community. What a great loss for all of us!


At some stage during the night it became bitterly cold. With most of us having only what we stood up in, and now that the hall had been burnt down, it became even more unpleasant on the Oval. To top it all off, it started raining! Not heavy rain, but wetting, cold, soaking rain. Thankfully the men from the CFA and DSE were able to give us the use of a blanket to wrap ourselves up in. The poor animals had to suffer their own fate!

There was no awareness of time, and the night seemed so very long, but eventually dawn started to appear. This did not bring any of us relief. It only proved our worst fears, and more! Most of us were just roaming around in a daze! Evacuation plans could not be organised yet as the exit roads, in both directions, from Marysville were still blocked. The trees were still burning, and falling across the road, blocking all traffic. It was a long time before there was any vehicle access - in or out of Marysville.

Some time later some of the staff from our local bakery (which amazingly survived the fire) brought over plates of sandwiches, cakes, and drinks for all of those whom had gathered on the Oval. A special thanks to Sue Gleeson, (who did the burglary!), and to the owner Lynne Phelps, for their open hearted care, kindness and consideration.

None of us had even considered food, but once it was there we all tucked in, and we all had plenty to eat. Was it hunger or nerves? Does it really matter. It was great to have some breakfast! Quality food at that! It was a long time since lunch yesterday!

Even though we had been waiting all night, it seemed like the waiting game was only just beginning. We were landlocked by fire. The DSE people headed off to work on clearing the roads, but just as one area was cleared, another tree fell. It was a matter of patience and waiting for all of us.

During this time a few more residents arrived. Amazing! After all the fires overnight, there were still some who only now were making it to the oval! It was great to see them, and with every new face there were more tears and hugs, and stories. We were especially delighted to see Frank and Pearl Timms when they arrived. They are both in their 80's and they fought the fire with great success. Only the roof of their house was damaged, although another house on their property was lost. Both were log houses which they had built themselves! Some amazing stories were to be told.

It became obvious that we were not going anywhere in a hurry, so we decided to walk across from the Oval to our house. This was easier now, as all the Oval fencing and the trees were gone. So we took the short cut. Killian took some photos of our house - from many angles; of the garage, and of the general close surrounding area.

In the garage the Toyota Prado Grande wasn't so Grande - or even grand! The alloy wheels were just a melted blob. The whole township of Marysville looked just like Beirut on a really bad day. Believe us, the TV footage didn't and couldn't do it justice. The wide angle camera lenses were just simply not wide enough to take in the enormity of it all.

Not only had almost all of the homes gone, but all of the basic infrastructure and shops were burned down too. The primary school, medical clinic, police station, hotel, petrol station, swings and playground, child care centre, post office, supermarket, guest houses, and so on it goes on. The enormity of it all did not really hit us until much later. You could not imagine much from Gallipoli Park Oval!

After taking the photo's we headed back across the road only to find the body of one of our lovely townsfolk lying on the ground behind a tree, opposite our driveway. She was most likely overcome by either the radiant heat or by smoke inhalation. There was little sign of burns on her body. We went back to the Oval and told the DSE who contacted the Police to attend the scene.


Eventually the Buxton Road was cleared enough to allow an ambulance through. We bundled Rod onto the stretcher and the ambulance fellows started their emergency first aid treatment on him. It was a relief to see the intravenous fluids start running into him!

Next we got Lachlan, and organised for him to be taken to hospital in the same ambulance as Rod. Before leaving, Lachlan asked Robyn if we would take care of his Nissan X Trail, and his two dogs, to which we agreed. We breathed a sigh of relief when the ambulance finally headed off. Lachlan later required microsurgery and lots of physiotherapy before his arm was healed properly.

Some time later Killian managed to borrow a satellite phone and spoke to our daughter Joan. She was absolutely distraught. She had no way of knowing if we had survived the fires or not. There had been no communications in or out of Marysville. She didn't know what to expect. Alive or dead? What, if any, injuries we might have received. She was very relieved to hear from us. It became Joan's job to let the rest of the family know we were OK. We were survivors - not victims!

After the ambulance went, the road was closed again - more fallen, burning trees blocking the way. Before the ambulance left, the Ambulance officers gave us some IV fluids, with a giving set inserted, so that we could flush out the eyes of those who wanted it done. This was a very popular treatment because most of us were suffering from burnt eyes. The cool solution did seem to help a little. If only for a short time of relief. It was very soothing at the time!

While we were all milling around waiting for something to happen, two helicopters arrived on the oval. At that time we were not up to talking to anyone from the news papers or television. Some people did so. I think the helicopters carried journalists from the ABC and from the Herald Sun paper. Up until this time, there had been no news about Marysville's plight getting out to the outside world.

Meanwhile a convoy was being organised to evacuate everyone to Alexander. It was to be a case of a grader in front to clear the way, and one following, to ensure the safety of us all. In actual fact, the convoy was headed up by two graders and several fire trucks. Two DSE buses carried the folk who had no transport. They were followed by a long line of private cars. When the convoy eventually headed off, Killian drove Lachlan's vehicle, taking his two dogs, and our two cats. At one stage he almost drove off the road, as he had such difficulty with his smoke damaged eyesight. Not a pleasant trip for any of us.

It was interesting - not knowing what we would find around each of the bends. The fires were still burning strongly, and the wind was still blowing, but not as ferociously. As we approached the Buxton intersection, there was a herd of big black cows. Some were roaming about, as if confused. Others were lying dead on the road. They too had been caught in the fires. Not nice.

We were very pleased to have the use of Lachlan's car for a few days. We did not know what was going to eventuate for anyone, but being able to be mobile was a great help to us. In Alexandra we where taken to the Showgrounds, were we received some sandwiches and drinks, and a safe place to sit down to rest. Arrangements were made for our group to be taken to Eildon, for accommodation, in the short term. We were not keen on this idea. We had heard rumours that Eildon might itself need evacuation very soon. The road to Eildon had been closed to traffic heading in.

All of Robyn's medications were lost in the fire in Marysville, so we headed up to the Alexandra Hospital to see if we could get a short term supply from the Pharmacy. They were very obliging. Later we went to the local chemist to see if we could organise a normal supply - which he did.

While we were in town we met some other people from Marysville. They advised us that we could pick up some donated clothing from the High School in Alexandra. This was very good news as we were quite cold now. The weather had changed overnight - it was now so very cold and wet. Not hot!!


The Red Cross was present and very helpful. They had organised hot food and clothing for us. It was ready for us straight away, before we even arrived there. There were volunteers everywhere, and they were all wonderful. This was the first time we heard that a convoy of cars and people were evacuated from Marysville at about 6pm on Saturday afternoon - the previous evening. Why did we not know?!

We were to find out a lot more information in the following weeks and months, and not much of it was making sense. Later all would be revealed! We hoped! For now, it was good to realise that more people had been saved than we had known about.

We all had to register with the Red Cross, so that they could start compiling a list of residents known to have survived the fires. This in turn allowed for the making of a list of non-survivors. Over the following weeks we had to re-register a further two times. Somewhere along the line, three times this basic information got lost. There were quite a few of our friends who suffered this same frustration. Not good for family or friends who were looking for us, and could find no information. I guess that the first few days, for those in authority, were very difficult ones - there had never been such a catastrophe before, in Australia, and especially in a small country town.

It was a strange feeling when it came time to leave Alexandra. It felt as though we were being torn away from everything and everyone that we knew, and all which made up our Community, and our life. It left us with a feeling of insecurity, isolation, and psychological loss. We had just gone through, and survived, so much with these people. We did not want to leave them now.

While we were at the High School, we were sifting through some clothes, which had been donated by the locals - already! While still trying to find the right size, Robyn was tapped on the shoulder. Turning around, she saw Jason, and behind him was our daughter Joan. They had driven up from Melbourne - another story all of its own. They were taking us back to their home - no matter what!

Joan, (our daughter), and Jason, (our son in law), headed out from the city to collect us as soon as they heard that we were alive. They had a very long and arduous trip, because of the fires. The journey, which would normally take no more than two hours, took them between four and five hours. The Maroondah Highway was closed at Healesville, so they had to back track and cut across to the Hume Highway. On reaching that highway they had to wait for the fire to pass so that the road could be reopened. The fire had crossed the highway several times, and there were more closures later that Sunday.

Finally Joan and Jason were able to tear us away from the High School, and the 'secure' felling of it all - from being with others who had experienced the fire! They were rightly very concerned about the fire and further road closures. Eventually we headed off with them, after saying fair-well to a few friends - we were all going in different directions. When would we meet again? Time was of the essence though, as the fires along the Highway were on the move again, and later re-crossed the Hume Highway, causing further closures.

Jason drove Lachlan's vehicle, with Killian, the dogs and cats, for company. Joan took Robyn in her vehicle. It was another very long day by the time we reached Upwey - where Joan, Jason and the family live. Remembering that the amount of sleep on Saturday night was very sparse - or nil - the enormous pressures and uncertainties of Sunday, and the three and a half hours of driving, we were all left drained of energy. We were very thankful to be away from the smoke and fire. Exhausted sleep came very easily to us as we sank into the clean, warm bed which Joan and Jason had earlier prepared for us!


Part 3


We awoke in a haze the next morning. Had this been a dream? Could it possibly be true? Marysville burned out of existence? Had we just been to hell and back? What were we doing at Joan's place? Why was Jason not at work yet? Where were the children? We could not hear them. These and many other thoughts went through our minds, but all too quickly we relived the last couple of days in our minds, and knew that it was all true.

Yes the cats were in the bedroom with us - but in a different bedroom. Lachlan's dogs were on the decking upstairs. What about Joan's cat, Mikey? What about their dog - Pippy? Mikey had disappeared outside, and Pippy was downstairs. She was not allowed into her 'own' house to get onto her own bed! Even her food bowls were borrowed for Indi and Lani's first meal.

Meanwhile, Indi and Lani both enjoyed being on the back verandah in Upwey, and being treated like royal visitors. They had plenty of room to run around on the decking, outside of the house. They had comfy blankets to rest on. And the food .... it just kept coming! We were used to feeding cats, who continue to graze on and off all day. These dogs must have been starved (we thought)! They swallowed down their food in almost one mouthful! No grazing here.

As we went upstairs, our main thought was "what do we do now?" No home. No car. No campervan. No place of employment still standing. Many friends were 'missing'. We were very grateful that we not only had each other, but that our two cats had also survived. We had done better than some! A lot of what we did, and where we went over the next month or so remains hidden in a 'fog', but some things stand out very clearly. Those pictures set in the mind! Reliving some of those moments! Thoughts!

Jason took quite a lot of time off work, doing things for us - such as organising our insurances, our loan car, Robyn's CPAP machine, and other practicalities. Joan also took us in hand and sent us off to the local Centrelink office, where we first learned about filling in forms! We discovered that too much information only causes confusion. Having not done this before we wanted to be open and honest! We confused the system a little by being transparent with the truth!

Telephone calls and visitors started happening. In fact, the telephone barely stopped ringing in those early days. We had calls from many parts of the world! It was especially great to hear from Killian's sisters living in Ireland. Jenny and John, Jason's parents, arrived with some clothes for us to wear, and some bedroom furniture. Later on Joan senior and David also arrived bearing gifts of all sorts, including some dinner, which we all shared. It was good to be together, and it was also good to realise that we really are special to our family. They do care deeply. It was also good to be able to spend some time with Callum and Ebony - our grand children - in their own home, on an everyday basis.

Our insurance company, RACV, was excellent to us. They certainly helped us as much as they could, and as quickly as they could. We had been insured through RACV for many years - don't know if that helped. Or maybe it had something to do with the way Jason had organised everything! Whatever! We have not heard many complaints about their service and care to the fire survivors. Different story with some of the other smaller companies. Because Marysville was in total lock-down, RACV paid out on our home insurance after having an aerial view of the town. This helped us to start moving on with our lives, and other big decisions.


Our Prado and Fairmont were, by now, in the "melted down" compound. Put there by the Police. RACV gave us a Calais for one month as part of our insurance policies, so we were mobile again. For the immediate future anyway. That was wonderful. It gave us a sense of freedom, and it took a little pressure off Joan and Jason.

Once Lachlan had been discharged from hospital he was anxious to be reunited with his two dogs - naturally - they are his family. We missed the dogs, but it did free up our time. Jason spent much time and effort washing and cleaning up Lachlan's car. Getting rid of the blood stains and muck before he arrived with his sister to collect it. The X-Trail looked great - thanks again Jason.

By the end of the first week things were starting to happen. There was action but not normality. It was extremely distressing to be locked out of Marysville - our home. For a whole six weeks. Longer for some. This fire had not even gained any media attention until the day afterwards, and now the town was classed as a crime scene! Because of the known deaths, (one outside our driveway), and also the list of 'missing' persons, we were not allowed in. Most residents found this difficult to deal with. So it was too, for those who'd been caught in their homes, and weren't allowed to come back if they left town!

There was one bus trip organised, for residents only, for the following Saturday, (14th February). For most of us, viewing the town simply created more despair - the devastation was enormous. Unimaginable! All that we knew and loved had gone. The enormity of it! One block after another with nothing left standing. Rubble everywhere. The media could not fully express the landscape. Everywhere it was as if there had been a nuclear explosion - or at least a major earthquake!

On the Thursday following the fires, we went up to Healesville to re-register with the Red Cross. The Red Cross was the organisation whom collected the status of each person, and accounted for the whereabouts of all who lived in the fire zones. To get to Healesville it took two hours each way, from Upwey. (Upwey is a suburb nestled in the Dandenongs, with numerous huge gum trees throughout).

The Black Spur was closed, so the round trip to Buxton, from Upwey, via Yea, took us three hours each way. It made the days very long! We were very thankful that the RACV had organised a comfortable car for us. Robyn would not have been able to make all the trips in a standard car. Her back injury was already making her life very painful.

So it was that the driving started - every Sunday to Buxton for Church. Up at six a.m. and back to Upwey around midnight. Marysville's Golf Club had been damaged but not destroyed, and it was far enough out of town for the residents to have access. There were lots of meetings. Most of them were held at the Golf Club in the early days after the fires. The meetings were usually held on the Sunday afternoons. It did not really matter what the meetings were about. It just gave us all a chance to reunite as a community. These times became very important and very precious. People had been moved near and far - dependant on accommodation, where family lived, and what was affordable and available to them. Some were even interstate.

There were several police interviews - all the residents had to comply. This was the work for the Phoenix Task Force. One cannot imagine what the Police had to face for all those weeks, sifting through the remnants of houses, lifting sheets of tin roofs, not knowing what to expect to find underneath. Checking out baths and burnt cars for bodies. The heat of that fire was such, that at times there was very little left for the Police to identify. Here is a special thanks to Detective Senior Sergeant Jeff Maher, who headed up the Task Force. He was criticised and verbally abused by some. He took this misplaced anger on board. Big shoulders. Still he did his best. Thank you Jeff!


There was at least one trip - if not two - to Buxton or Healesville every week. Visiting the Relief Centres to get clothing, underwear, shoes, toiletries, bedding, and other practical needs was quite daunting. Initially it was just all too much. We took just one set of clothes at a time, not being able to think ahead. Obviously then we needed to revisit! There were good and bad things happening in these times. We met some wonderful people, who helped us enormously, and they remain friends to this day. Faye and Aad Van Duin from Healesville are one such couple. All of the volunteers in these Centres were important to us, and it was often a time to catch up with others from Marysville, and to be updated.

Then the Services started. There were Funerals - they were the worst. No hope. No God. Then there were Thanksgiving services. There were Internments. There were Memorial services. It seemed like a never ending parade. Each one was as difficult as the last. Marysville had been a close community, so we knew most of those who had died. These services were held all over the place, depending on family wishes. Some were in Melbourne, some were in the suburbs, others were held at the Golf Club, or at Marysville cemetery. There were some delays, depending on the Coroner's requirements. It took months for these services to be finalised.

We would like to add in here that if you do not know Jesus Christ personally, NOW is the time to change this - you do not know if you will have tomorrow! Believe us, we have survived hell on earth. We can only imagine what it might be like to have to live in hell for all eternity. Not good!! It is up to each one, on your own, to make that decision. When you die, God will give you which ever you have chosen - heaven or hell - for ever and ever. Our experience would suggest that Hell is not a good option!

There was also the paper work. Never ending application forms! It is still going on today! You would think that by now we would have learned to 'do it right', but each lot has its own quirks. Fair enough, as this is the only way of screening people. But so many times? One for each separate grant? Everything must be on record by now. From taxes to bank accounts. It is all there to be checked!

Then the worst thing happened. Talk about a bad start to the year, and a particularly bad month! There were fires in Upwey! In fact we evacuated three more times!! To other very heavily treed areas! Very frightening. At the sound of a helicopter, or a siren, we became on full alert. At the look of cumulous clouds, or at the whiff of smoke, panic was close. These are some of the silent, emotional changes. Even a loud bang behind you can still make us jump. This often happens in a supermarket!

It was on one of these trips from Buxton, during this first month after the fire, that we received the most amazing phone call. On the mobile. As we were heading back to Upwey. Lisa Hall was asking if we had a car! No - it melted in the fires. She was offering us a Mazda 323 - to keep! Free! This was too good to be true. A complete stranger making this offer! Only two weeks after the fire. A free car to use and to keep!

We had never seen such generosity. We were very grateful, and humbly accepted it. The car had originally belonged to Lisa's sister, Susan, but she no longer used it. Lisa was about to take delivery of her new car, so there it was. All the way from Mornington, Lisa and her husband, Andrew, drove up to Upwey to deliver the car to us. We have been very blessed. We are very pleased, and proud, to be the new owners of this great little1986 Mazda 323. The registration number is CVY 597. We now call her "Civy" because she has given us back the option to be a part of the greater population (civilisation) when ever we want to! Thanks again to Susan, Lisa, and Andrew!

The generosity of the public has been mind blowing. Thank You seems too little to say. However, we still say THANK YOU AUSTRALIA!!


One day as we arrived back at Upwey the sirens and helicopters started again. It was yet another total fire ban day. Now the time had come. It was all getting too hard for the nervous system! We could not wait any longer to move from Upwey, to somewhere closer to home.

"Civy" outside 42 Falls Road

The sight to be seen that day

We had a very generous offer for accommodation in Taggerty, but we were too concerned about further fires occurring nearby, so we stayed put for the moment. However, after this third Upwey evacuation we decided to contact Christopher and Ros Thorn about moving in. We had to take a chance one way or another. Our only concern was that the Taggerty fires had burned to within approximately 500 meters of their house, and the weather had not yet cooled. We decided to take the lesser of the two concerns, so we moved into Taggerty. This was just one month after our fires. It was great to be back in the district again.

View from verandah at Taggerty

The house in Taggerty

The hot summer weather did not abate after these fires. In fact it continued until 4th March. That is when the rain started, and continued all day! By the 17th March Robyn's back pain was getting to be beyond belief. Her left leg was becoming almost totally numb, and she was having difficulty walking. Bending over to pick up anything was not possible. She started having to spend more and more time in bed. After having a CT scan she was put onto heavy doses of narcotics and Norspan patches. The right Sciatic nerve was compressed!

This was not adequate treatment, so she was finally admitted into Epworth hospital, for an MRI and pain control. After spending a week there, and being fitted with a made to measure back brace (to keep the spine totally immobile), she was discharged. Using a four prong walking stick for support and safety, Robyn tried to continue attending the services and meetings, but it soon became too painful for her to attend anything. Sitting was not on the agenda. Going for drives was out.


It did not take long to discover that just increasing the narcotics was not going to be enough for pain control. It was also becoming very frustrating for Robyn, because Marysville was now open. Now we could fossick in the ashes to try to find something worthy to retrieve. Not much to be found, but Killian had to go it alone. "Feeling the ashes" was an important part of moving on, but Robyn had to wait for that.

By now, we were starting to feel quite isolated at Taggerty. The house sat behind Cathedral Mountain, so all signals were blocked. There was very limited communications present in this house. Our computers were gone. Our mobile phone had stopped working. Reception was nil! Telstra did change the mobile over for a new Next G model, in the hope that this would help, but it didn't.

Telstra were very good to us, in that they automatically transferred all calls to our home number onto the mobile. They also cancelled our bills for three months. This too, was great. However we still had no communications. Finally we contacted Ms Fran Bailey - Liberal sitting member for our area. She was very sympathetic and helpful.

On the day after the fires, everyone who had a computer before the fire was promised a replacement one by Mr Brumby, the current Premier for Victoria, but that did not happen. Ms Fran Bailey got her staff to work for us, and they were fantastic. Problem solvers!

Jill immediately followed up on Telstra, and worked with them until we had some resolution of the problems. She then put us in touch with Anita Godfrey from Telstra Countrywide. Now here is a real gem. Anita still keeps in touch with us to ensure all is working well. Thank you so much Anita.

We now have a mobile phone which will work inside the house - instead of driving 3.2 kilometres to the highway. We have a much improved landline. We still do not receive any signals for the radio and television, but we now have the computer for when we want to see the News. Billing has been quite a problem from the start. Anita is still working hard trying to ensure that this matter with the billing department gets sorted out correctly. We still have a way to go with the account, but Anita is ever there to help us. We are so grateful for her help and care.

The other staff member whom Fran asked to help us was Nadine. She was also very quick with her efforts and a good outcome ensued. On 21st March we finally were given an old desktop computer - 2003 version - it helped to put us back in touch with the world. We have discovered that there is "Free to air" news, and much more, available on computer, so we can watch the news as we want - dependant on our download allowance. These episodes showed just how important it is to be in contact with others.

Our desktop computer tower!

Our laptop computer!


On 2nd April we received another one of those amazing phone calls. This call was from Simon Rutherford from Nissan head office. He made an offer that was too good to refuse. The rented Calais had been returned in March. Now we had the use of a Nissan Pathfinder for 6 months! There was also an option to purchase at the end of this period of time. Wow! It was good to be back in a four wheel drive - having had a Prado before the fire. This was not a late April fools joke. We collected the Nissan on 21st April. Travel is so much more comfortable now.

On 14th April Robyn was readmitted to Epworth to have a facet joint injection of long acting corticosteroid, under anaesthetic, straight into the spinal facet joint. Finally there was some real pain relief! Oral analgesics were still required, but not at such high doses.

Another special event in April was a visit from David Dawson, from Samaritan's Purse. David arrived with a brand new generator exactly the same as the one we lost in the fire. One of his staff had heard of our loss. She took it upon herself to go and buy the machine. This gives us back some freedom. Robyn has to use her CPAP machine every night. It was of concern for us if there was a power failure - which happens often in this area. With a generator, it gives us the opportunity to go camping again! Not that we have yet! Killian could still get his sleep, and Robyn could continue breathing - and sleeping! What an amazing gift! What a wonderful caring person this lady is. Thank you so much Marilyn.

Some of the plants we have purchased - to re-establish our new garden - when we finally move in!


Samaritan's Purse also gave out some tools in their 'Recovery Kit'. These included some spades and rakes, as well as a variety of tools for home use. This was an excellent gift for Killian. Thanks again. The tools are being well used at 42 Falls Road already.

Lions Clubs from all over Australia have been wonderful too. Marysville and District Lions have been the backbone of assistance to the Marysville Community. They have fed many. They have helped clothe and comfort many. They have given material aid. They have given us a garden shed. They filled it with garden tools, and included a wheel barrow. How thoughtful! They have even given us a box of 100 bulbs, which are now opening and looking beautiful. These are the things which lift one's soul! The Lions have been indispensible. They also have a "tool library". How good is that!

Keith Gale has been extremely helpful to Killian. Our trailer was 'wheel - less' after the fire. The tyres totally melted away. The bearings on the wheels were stuck solid. It seemed that we would need to buy another trailer. Some received a trailer free, but we did not have a car at that time. Between Killian and Keith our trailer is now back in action. We're not sure just how strong it is now, but we can use it. Keith has also freed up some of Killian's tools which had seized up during the fire - such as a pipe wrench and two vices. Killian thought they would never work again. This was a long and tedious job for Keith. It is all of these acts of kindness which have made an impression.

Grocon is the company whom the Government selected to do all of the clean-up work required. What a huge job! Our turn started on 15th May, when they came to remove the corrugated iron from the property. We were then given two weeks to finalise our dust-sifting. It was great to be given this time for us to have a final inspection. Killian took me with him this time, so that I could have a look too.

And this is only from the car shed!!

Corrugated iron from the house also!


When we arrived at the house we found some items which Killian had previously observed, to be no longer visible. Very sad. They were our possessions, and they were our memories. There were quite a few items which we would have liked first chance at. What a comparison to friends who would not even enter our property, or take anything from us, even when we were with them and offered them some mementos! This all became just too much when someone started digging up the few plants which were putting up a good fight to survive, and were showing some new green leaves!

The one disappointing thing was that dishonest people had removed items before we had time to consider what was worthwhile, and what we wanted to keep for our own souvenirs. Some of these were locals too, which made it even worse. Talk about grave robbers. Such an intrusion on one's privacy and personal space! Such silly things, like planter pots - even still with burnt soil in them! And cracked!!

The hope of new growth!

The Mikasa collection!

Finally the full clean up was booked to start. The first work was to remove some of the trees which were certified to be unsafe. The workers were very good. They tried really hard not to cause any further damage. They were careful enough for us to be able to keep our paving in the back courtyard!

No green leafy space left now.

All the trees had to go.



Part 4



The morning after!!

Remnants of the front garden

Remnants of the house from back garden

Note the smoke - very heavy!

All that is left of our wood supply!

Hose over paving, ladder on retaining wall!



On 25th June we finally had our shipping container transported onto our block. We had been waiting for this to arrive for quite a few weeks. When the original delivery date arrived we were excited, seeing this as a chance to move on. However when we arrived at the block we were very disappointed. Our neighbour's trees had all been cut down, and they were laying strewn all over the place, right across our land. Not impressed! We had to cancel that delivery. But now, at last, it is here!

Days passed, and time was irrelevant. We seemed to be living in a daze. It was as if we were inside a bubble, with no contact with reality. There were big mood swings. From high hopes, to very deep depression. It seems to have been the same for everyone, so it was not only because of the pain and limitations placed on us by Robyn's injury. The professionals were calling it post traumatic stress syndrome. Guess that could be right. There were good and bad things interspersed all the time. Nothing was ever straight forward.

David, (Robyn's brother), and Maureen came down from Stradbroke Island - where they live, for a weekend visit mid May. It was good to see them, but for such a short time! Was it worthwhile? Did it really happen? On 22nd May the lady from Spotlight arrived with Ros Thorn, to install curtains on every window in their Taggerty home. What a relief. We were not looking forward to a winter with no window coverings. We were most grateful - especially when, only three weeks later, it snowed in the district - on the mountains opposite the house, and in Marysville too. The snow stayed on the ground for four days. A cold and early start to winter!

On 17th June Robyn had another appointment with the neurosurgeon. He took one look at her and insisted that she be admitted for surgery the following Thursday. However, because of certain medications Robyn needed for her heart condition, the surgery was postponed until the 16th July - to allow time for her blood count to return to normal.

Killian travelled into the city every day. That was a massive effort for him. Eventually he started using the public transport system to give him a break from the driving and parking problems. After ten days, Robyn was discharged home, with a treatment regime of walking for 15 minutes, four times a day, and lying flat for 1.5 hours after every walk! This resulted in almost no time for anything else in the day!

The trip home from the city was devastating for Robyn. Having been out of the fire zone for two weeks, she had been able to put it out of her mind. Now she had to face it all again - as if for the first time. Very hard. Very raw emotions. This has all been a very emotional trip for both of us.

Life is not easy, and it is still way too early for any of us to "get over it" as many city folk have suggested. This was not just a house fire situation. This was a whole town burned to the ground. This was not just houses burned, it was all of the infra structure needed for any town to function properly. This was not just a town wiped off the map, this was a rude, unexpected rupture of the community. Not just people displaced, but friends - young and old - dead. We need the time and the space to properly mourn all of our losses - the people, the town, the community.

The horror is certainly here. It is obvious. The enormity of it is starting to reveal itself too. The roller-coaster is speeding up. What to do. When to do it. Where to do it. These and many more questions continually go in and out of the brain.

One thing is absolutely true. Marysville will NEVER be the same! Marysville WILL recover, but the beauty as we knew it, will not reappear in our lifetimes. The community can never be the same, but as new people move in, we can make new friends, and try to recreate some of what we had before. God willing! This little town really was the jewel in the crown. A piece of heaven on earth!


Marysville, being based on tourism, had some wonderful icons which were a "must see" to most visitors - depending on the season. Autumn had the beautiful colours - like Bright in Victoria, or the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. The difference was that Marysville was so small, and the colours so intense - everywhere - that the display was bigger than in the larger towns.

In the heat of summer, it was a very relaxing walk into the Beeches rainforest. It was cool, beautiful, lots of moss, epiphytes, etc, and only 600 metres from the road - if you went only as far as the "Meeting of the Waters". It was beautiful. There were also many, many other bush walks around town. Kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, abounded, and could easily be seen while doing your walk.

Springtime was magnificent. The array of flowers were second to none! There were all kinds of colourful rhododendrons, azaleas, bulbs, and other 'imported' European beauties - too many to list, but visible in almost every garden. There were also many native plants which attracted the many types of colourful birds into our area - such as the Crimson Rosellas, the King Parrots, the Eastern Spinebills, various kinds of honey eaters (like the golden helmeted, or the eastern honeyeater with a black head and bright yellow stripe from the eye), galahs, sulphur crested cockatoos, gang gangs, the red and yellow robins, finches, etc. The list goes on.

Winter was the other 'spectacular' season in Marysville. This was the time when Marysville was really humming. Cross country skiing on Lake Mountain - or tobogganing - was an absolute must for most of the visitors in winter. Being the closest snow resort to Melbourne, a lot of visitors also came just for the sight-seeing.

For many people, Marysville was also the best point of call for honeymoons - even still in 2008! Secluded weekends, family camping, lovers retreat, and so on. There was something for everyone. A night visit to see the Steavenson Falls under lights was a must, as was a day trip up to Keppel Lookout, from where you could look down and see the whole township. These were popular places for the locals too!

Along with the rest of Marysville, all of these places have been destroyed for the present. The Falls were burnt out in the 1939 fires, and it has taken the trees and ferns 60 years to recover to what they were in January 2009. Lake Mountain and the Beeches are currently an absolute eye-sore. The landscape has been irreparably damaged. The mountain ash and the alpine beech trees will never recover from the fire. They cannot tolerate the heat of a fire - particularly our fire storm! Maybe the Department of Sustainability and Environment will set up an aerial re-seeding programme?

As for the Lookout and the Falls, eventually the trees should regrow - with a little help from the DSE. Only time will tell. However, the heart and soul of Marysville can return IF the governments will continue their commitment and finances to the rebuilding projects. So far the residents are starting to rebuild, but there is no evidence of work being done to replace all the vital infra-structure which is needed. Not even a permanent public toilet in the main street has been built as yet.

The other essential ingredient for the return of Marysville is the continuing support of the public. To date the general public have been absolutely wonderful in their giving, and messages of love and encouragement. Just as this needs to continue, we need to see the 'outside' world visiting us! What is the point of having a tourist town if there are no tourists? Thank you to all who have already come!

There is still much that could be said, but enough is enough! The bubble has now broken well and truly! Reality has hit home! Instead of life getting better, it really is getting much harder since the six month mark. I guess that some of this is because we now suddenly realise that time has marched onwards, and we are no further advanced. Christmas will be here again soon, and we still don't have our home organised! Then it will be 2010! Let's hope that it will be a better year for us all!


Serious decisions must be made now! What will we do for transport? What will we do about a new home? What will it look like? How will we manage our tax? Where will we live? Do we stay or do we move on? Health wise, there are still issues to be resolved. There is a growing depression about our future, and our past. There is still much grieving to be done.

When all is said and done, life has been too busy to cope properly with what has happened over the past six years! We probably have never really mourned the loss of Robyn's Mother, Father, and sister - Margaret. We have found ourselves just moving from one situation to the next. Now the combined loss of everything has compounded. Thankfully we have a wonderful psychologist who is very helpful and understanding.

We have been able to make some decisions:

** We have purchased a car - the Pathfinder from Nissan

** We have decided to build again, on our home site in Marysville

** We have decided that our house will be as it was before, with some minor internal changes in design

** Killian has started cleaning up the garden, cutting down dead plants, and removing the onion weed

** Robyn has found a bed in our container, so she can do some of her walks in Marysville & then rest

** Robyn now has to learn some patience - she is not allowed to bend, and she is not allowed to garden

** We are looking at caravans now. It is too soon to decide which brand, but we will buy one soon

** We are in discussion with builders and architects to work on our house plans

One day it will be all done. We will have re-built our home. We will have a holiday. We will finally settle down to our new life. We will enjoy the caravan. God willing!

We have been blessed by the kindness of individual people like yourself, some we have met, some we will never meet. We have been blessed by the kindness of many organisations such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Saltshakers, the Samaritans Purse, Insight for Living, Lions Clubs from all over, St Vincent DePaul. Individuals from within our local Church, other Church groups, quilters, friends old and new - all have been a blessing in many ways. Family have been wonderful also.

It is true to note that Robyn misses her Mum very much at the moment, and Killian misses Robyn's Dad. They were both very involved in our lives, and they really loved Marysville. Lots of our memories of them revolve around their holidays with us, when they were coming from Sydney, to stay with us - before they moved here permanently. Not to be forgotten is Margaret, whom we also miss a lot, as she also stayed with us most Christmas holidays, as well as on other school term breaks throughout the year.

We have been assisted by local politicians, and their staff, both Labour and Liberal. Prayed for by many Christians. Accommodated through Christian kindness. Clothed and fed by the world!

It is impossible to say thank you to each individual - not the least because we do not know all of you! However, an extra special thanks goes to those who have helped us from the start, and are still guiding us along the way. You know who you are, but here are some names: Janet Iles, Ethel Leary, Rod Liesfield, Lachlan Fraser, Bronwyn Cleary, Mark Ryan, Viv Bateman, and not to be forgotten - our Case Manager - Ronnie Schapel.

Finally, thanks to Rosey and Chris. Without their help this story would not have eventuated!!

Having almost completed inputting information, neither of us would have coped with rewriting the whole story again. Yes. The computer crashed! We had no back-up. But we had saved everything very frequently. Thus Rosey was able to recover the whole lot, plus other information and photos too.

We pray that all your kindnesses will return to you one thousand fold.

Killian & Robyn Fitzpatrick.


42 Falls Road, Robyn, & the Pathfinder!

Container and emptiness!!

Steavenson Falls 22nd August 2009

Steavenson Falls 10th August 2008

From Keppel Lookout after the fires

Before the fire storm

Marysville after fire & under snow 6th June 2009

Murchison Street, Marysville


Lake Mountain on the horizon

Lake Mountain under snow

Devastation and Sadness