In October 2019, Australia suffered the Gospers Mountain fire which burned a devastating 2,649,323 acres of land over just under 3 months. The bushfire has been recorded as the largest bushfire the country has known to date and was responsible for the destruction of over 80 homes.
In an effort to prevent future damage to homes in the instance of bushfires, Habitat for Humanity Australia are working with communities to fireproof their homes. This is the story of Les and Barb.
Barb and Les Fireproof Their Home
“I’m Barb. We live in the beautiful blue mountains. It’s at Mount Toma – very close to the botanic gardens at Mount Toma… In 2019, the Gospers mountain fire came through. It started, I think, in October. We were in Sydney when we heard that the fire had come, and we looked at the computer images where the fire had gone and it showed that it had gone right across our property…
For that morning, we were absolutely devastated. We just thought we’d lost everything, and it wasn’t until we actually got to our street that we found that the house was safe. This is my husband, Les, and we’ve been living here for 12 years.”
Les says; “I was drawn to this property by a couple of things. My wife Barbara, she’s dead keen on gardens, and when we came to look at the property the mist was there and it was just beautiful.”
“This property is five acres.” Barb adds, “It’s a long narrow block. It goes down a steep slope at the back into a bushed area. It is on volcanic soil which is fabulous for growing plants, and if you look down the back you can see how well they’ve grown and how difficult it is to control them and keep the property fire proof.”
“My name is Jacob. I work for Habitat for Humanity Australia. I’m a site supervisor for the bushfire resilience program and today I am in the blue mountains in Mount Toma helping out Barbara and Leslie to get on top of their overgrown land that’s presenting a major bushfire risk to their property.”
“Habitat for Humanity Australia is a non-profit organisation where we try to give back to community with Brush with Kindness Recovery, and now Bushfire Resilience. The Bushfire Resilience Program is aimed to make fire prone properties more fireproof and fire ready for the future.
Habitat for Humanity Australia, along with it’s partners and volunteers worked tirelessly to clear shrubs and bushes around Barb and Les’ property to create firebreaks that will prevent wild fires reaching their home in the future. Firebreaks are gaps in vegetation, foliage or/and other combustible materials that act as barriers. These barriers then halt or slow the spread of fire into specific areas.
To ensure minimal waste, the debris that was collected during the clearance process was collected into a pile so that Barbara and Les could re-use the the materials that had been cut down.
The clearance work was completed by Barb and Les along with Habitat for Humanity volunteers from partner organisations. Having an effective firebreak around their property will safeguard the couple and their home from any future fires. When asked about how he feels about the work that was completed, Les says; “[I’m] very, very, very [thankful] – I think it’s just fantastic.”
Barb also went on to say, “It was a fabulous day. They [the volunteers] did a lot of work. They just worked so hard. It’s been marvelous. It’s just taken a weight off my shoulders and that’s been so good. Thank you.”
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