Bushfire season. It's that time of the year again, when the combination of extreme summer temperatures and dry northerly winds create the potential for disaster. Events of the past week along Victoria's Surf Coast remind us yet again of this ever-present danger.
Growing up in rural Victoria, the possibility of bushfire was always a concern during summer. On such a day, a faint whiff of smoke in the air, or wisp of grey visible on the horizon was enough to create anxiety throughout the community. The sound of the fire siren from the local CFA would galvanise everyone into action.
Parents and grandparents would recall devastating fires of years past. My mother had a lifelong terror of fire after being caught in the Dandenongs during the 1939 bushfires, while staying with relatives there. As a child in 1967, I remember being kept inside all day as ash fell from the sky and the sun was totally blacked out by smoke from the Hobart bushfires, 500 kilometres away across Bass Strait.
And so the cycle continues over the years. Lives are changed forever, and labels such as "Ash Wednesday" and "Black Friday or Saturday" become part of our vocabulary. The names of communities devastated by fires are not forgotten. Some people, crushed and broken by loss, move on to start again elsewhere. Others stoically stay on, determined to recreate what was lost and rebuild their communities.
One such community is the little town of Noojee in Gippsland, 110 kilometres east of Melbourne, in the foothills of Victoria's Great Dividing Range. Noojee has been rebuilt twice after being destroyed by bushfire, on Black Sunday in February 1926, and again on Black Friday in January 1939.
|Noojee 1939 - looking up Loch Valley Road|
The little wooden church which had survived the 1926 fire was destroyed in the 1939 blaze. The building had been a social hub in the community, but the cost of replacing it with a more durable structure seemed prohibitive. That was until a plan was made by some enterprising clergymen in the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland, one of whom was my father.
THREE MEN AND A CHURCH. (1939, October 17). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 7. Retrieved December 27, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11249006
|St. Andrew's Anglican Church, Noojee c2013|