Bushfire damage at Peregian Beach. Photo Lachie Millard
Bushfire damage at Peregian Beach. Photo Lachie Millard

Courage under fire to help complete strangers

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OPINION:

IT'S a special breed of person who willingly puts themselves in harm's way to help complete strangers.

The firefighters, police and other emergency services who worked on Monday night to prevent a disaster in Peregian Beach had no right to prevail.

But they did.

Spending time in Peregian on Wednesday, there were two vibes that struck me from everyone in town.

Gratitude and disbelief.

Some residents who were finally let back into their homes on Wednesday genuinely thought they would be coming home to nothing.

They could not believe how firefighters had been able to protect their properties.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be staring at a wall of flames, a literal rainstorm of embers, as you try to protect the home or business of somebody you have never met.

For some, it's their job, others actually volunteer, take time off their paid work and dig in to do this.

Regardless of the reason, both are beyond question when it comes to bravery.

Fire is such a different beast.

One woman's unit was charred, her back deck and outdoor area burnt beyond repair.

Next door, aside from some damage to the fence, her neighbour's home stood relatively untouched.

As journalists we work hard to communicate vital information in a time of crisis, and equally importantly, convey the raw, human reality of what is happening.

We're privileged to be in a position to be looking at humanity at its best and worst.

I always ask myself whether I've conveyed well enough the reality of what's happening.

It's the calm, among such chaos, and stoicism in the aftermath that's always blown me away.

Rural fireys, some volunteers, casually speaking about staring down a 70m-high wall of fire, embers raining down upon them like an east coast low.

Watching men and women poring over the charts at the forward command centre, a mass of mumbo jumbo to the average punter, which is in reality a blueprint, a masterplan, to save lives and homes.

The way they plotted Tuesday morning's aerial attack was incredible.

Calm, cool-headed, precise, while dealing with elements as unpredictable as wind, weather and fire, it can't be easy.

Fire balls aren't meant to be flying over the main street of Peregian Beach.

The eastern side of the David Low Way was not meant to burn.

Embers aren't meant to pepper the earth like hailstones.

Chippies and truck drivers aren't meant to be able to stop a 70m-high wall of fire from flattening a community.

But they did.

Rural fireys told me at the time it often feels like time slows down.

They go into their procedures, and focus on the task at hand. It's astonishing,

As is the way in which those who fled as the night sky turned into a furnace were dusting themselves off, smiling, laughing, looking ahead.



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