SMOKE: Cattle graze on surviving pasture as smoke envelopes the land and hides the sky near Bega, after bushfires tore through the area.
SMOKE: Cattle graze on surviving pasture as smoke envelopes the land and hides the sky near Bega, after bushfires tore through the area.

In the fire zone – Gympie woman’s haunting experience

LIKE clouds, only scary, bushfire smoke was still a visibility hazard as former Gympie woman Briony Calarco drove from Sydney this week to check on the farm her partner jointly owns with friends near Bega.

Even with spot fires still burning and debris everywhere, the district, on the New South Wales southern coast, was amazingly busy as people quickly got back to the routines of daily survival, she said.

Gympie woman Briony Calarco in the Southern New South Wales fireground near Bega, after an anxious drive to check on her partner's farm, which fortunately survived..
Gympie woman Briony Calarco in the Southern New South Wales fireground near Bega, after an anxious drive to check on her partner's farm, which fortunately survived..

“There are still fires near here. And Eden, about an hour to the south, is surrounded by fire I think at the moment.

“It’s all a bit scary,” she said, describing how the smoke made driving hazardous, with visibility sometimes down to 200m.

“We got to the farm last night,” she said yesterday, “and found the situation is actually very good compared to a few weeks ago.

“We’ve been very lucky. The fires came really close.

“We heard of heavy black skies, like night but in the daytime. Then they had red skies, then yellow and now white, looking like a very thick fog.

“Everybody says that’s good. It’s all relative I suppose.

“You can really see how extreme the damage has been.

“The heat has been a threat in itself. Apparently trees have been exploding out of the ground during the catastrophic days.

“Brick houses have been damaged with their bricks exploding.

”Other houses seem to have burst into flames, even though they were nowhere near the flames.

“Driving through the area it’s really bad. There is debris along the road and ash everywhere and it can be hard to see enough to drive.

“Some other nearby areas have been really slammed.

“It’s surprising to see houses still standing and businesses open.

“There’s still smoke in the air and ash flying around, heavy smoke.

“But people have already started to recover and they’re working to resume normal business.

“The fireys did such an amazing job evacuating people.

“They’ve also worked to save infrastructure in the Snowy Mountains and primarily keeping the power on and getting people to safety.”

“They’ve been really clever, really strategic and they’ve managed to save so many lives.

“It was incredible work.

“The fires have only just started to peter out here, but it is still burning.

“We hadn’t been able to get down earlier because the road was closed, but they’ve just opened it.

But the smoke is still so thick, there are places where you can only see 200m up the road.

“The farm was fine though. We were very lucky.

“But the smoke is still thick, even though there has been some rain. “The smoke and the rain and the ash, you can smell them all in every breath. It’s quite an eerie smell.”