Friday, January 13, 2006


Went back to The Bays today, to see if the re-generation after the fires had started and to see for myself how much damage there was.

From Rawson Road I'd seen the fire all the way from Woy Woy Bay to Horsfield Bay and on the news I'd seen the burnt out house and the scorched fences and the fire fighters cars burnt out in front of the fire station. So I was expecting a shitload of damage and there was a shitload but heaps less than I imagined.

Colours of the fire
(Big version) Part of the burnt out ridge beside Woy Woy Bay Road. Taken from near the RFS station in Wattle Crescent.

The bus comes from Woy Woy station, along Woy Woy Bay Road, along Wattle Crescent, along the top of the ridge and down to Taylor Street in Woy Woy Bay.

There was a stretch of maybe 200 metres (218.7 yards) of uninhabited ridge along Woy Woy Bay Road, near Wattle Crescent, burnt to a crisp. It was quite beautiful in a fucked-up way. Black black ground and trees and some trees bright orange. Their outer bark had burnt off I think. There were big black streaks and patches of scorching on the grey rock and on the black ground there were patches of bright green shoots. The undergrowth is coming back already.

Rumours of their death have been greatly exaggerated
(Big version) Gum trees (eucalypts) are as tough as old boots. This one was black and leafless but here, where the bark's been knocked off, you can see the living tree.

I got off at Wattle Crescent. It was still sprinkling and the ground was wet and slippery. The smell of smoke was still as strong as if the fire was still active.

The worst of it was around Wattle Crescent like they said on the news. This house with a wee turret on it is across the road and along one house from the fire station so I expected to see its charred remains. But it was fine, not a mark on it. The house next to it had a very near miss. The tree in its side garden was scorched and the trees against the fence burnt black.

I saw the fire station on the news and knew it was fine. The sign was burnt but still standing and the box for the free local newspaper was still there too. The fire station is essentially a big tin shed on the corner of Wattle and Woy Woy Bay Road. No swish carpark or anything. Directly across the road is the little de facto carpark the fire fighters use. Trees near it were the ones that fell on the burning RFS (Rural Fire Service) peoples' cars.

RFS Station
(Big version) The RFS (Rural Fire Service) station on the corner of Wattle Crescent & Woy Woy Bay Road.

Six houses along was the house we saw burning down on the news. I couldn't see much of the house in December and there's not much to see now, just a roofless brick wall and a bend metal fence. At the front of the block there was a gazebo with a long walkway leading to it from the house. The ground below it was burnt but gazebo was untouched. Across the road was a house completely surrounded by burnt trees and black ground. On one side the fire got with two metres (6 feet) of the house. Fuck, that's close.

That house had a tree out the front of it in December, a tree overhanging the road and with a kookaburra sitting in it as I walked past. The tree is gone but the kookaburra was back and chuckling in a burnt tree nearby.

New view
(Big version) Taken from Wattle Crescent, beside the house completely surrounded by burnt trees. You can see right over the Peninsula (Woy Woy) to Daleys Point now. In December there was just a glimpse of water between the trees. The kookaburra I saw there in December has moved to that leafless tree in the middle.

Down at Taylor Street on the other side of the ridge, at Woy Woy Bay, you couldn't tell there'd been a fire. On New Year's Day it looked, from Rawson Road, like Taylor Street was burning. But Woy Woy Bay was untouched and I had to go out onto the Bassan Street jetty to see where the fire had been. (No photo, the light got very low again.)

From Taylor Street I went to down Phegans Bay Road to the bus stop at the bottom. Up near the hairpin bend into Phegans Bay Road the tops of the trees had been cut down and I could see clear out to the lighthouse on Barrenjoey Head and the sea. Couldn't see that before the fire.

On New Year's Day Phegans Bay was looking bad. Today from the hairpin bend, it looked fine. But walking down into it every twist and curve in the road showed me another burnt-out garden and singed house. The sparks and embers must've blown down the hill. There were no destroyed houses there but you could see there and around Wattle Crescent how hard the fire fighters fought. The residents were praised by a fire chief for helping save their houses on New Year's day but I've never seen so clearly how hard the fieries work.

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