After silencing everyone Rick and Aileen started the story of their Christmas in Mallacoota where they were surrounded by the massive fire now known as the Mallacoota fires.

They travelled there with their son Conor who is our Exchange Student Along with a niece of Aileen’s who was out from Ireland visiting.
 
There were two other children but they were off to a Music festival and intended to join them later.
After showing us where Mallacoota is in the east of the state they then described the local area and how it related to their sheltering during the fires.
This was their annual Christmas location.
Pictures of their “annual” friends who assemble there every year.
The fires started 28th but people were not too worried.
The morning of 30 started with a community meeting for residents and campers. About 1000 people were involved.
They did have a chance to leave but it had to be at that time and that the opportunity to leave would not exist later.
They choose not to leave as they were worried about the trip out behind vehicles and caravans and all sorts of towing things so choose to stay. Hind sight may have had a different decision.
Some people left without their belongings some. It felt like they were panicking and rushing. One group lost their bikes as they were not packed properly. They may have been dangerous on the road. This endorsed Rick and Aileen’s decision to stay.
About 3000 people left with about 1000 still in the town.
The road closed at 1pm.

The wait

They packed their camp as did their friends
Arranged an emergency pack and plan. This means choosing a place near the water. It had a jetty where they could plan to get into the water from there.
At 5 o’clock they went to their evacuation place.
The photo display the wait.
Conor is in this pic.
Some people stayed in the town hall.
The expectation was that the fire would arrive at 3 or 4 in the morning.
After about no sleep Aileen headed for a bit of a walk and filled the water bottles and took this photo.
This was really scary. A bit red ball and doing some extreme panicking. She was really worried.
I did know that Rick was snoring under a tree and according to Aileen he was quite happy!
The arrival would now be about 8 or 9 am.

7am and eerie

Everything Black

I think these pictures tell it all!
At this time gas bottles exploding and houses exploding.
A sad point that Aileen and Rick mentioned was the little honey eaters were also dead on the ground.
A post note at this point was a small wind change that pushed the fire just a little way north of Mallacoota.

We survive

A few more pics where they had realised that they were going to live.
A small ember fire at the camp ground.
It had moved on and had jumped on to Goat Island
Some people had arrived to see if they can help. This is one of the boats.

Afterwards

Time for drinks as almost the New Year.
This is a group of the very relieved people getting ready for the New Year and a drink and excited to have survived the experience.
And the new year And new years day
Actual numbers 1200 in the evacuation center. 2000 to the pier. About 400 on the beach

Getting ready for evacuation

This is a community meeting about the evacuation

Actual Evacuation

A little bit more relaxed
The relief included tears of relief.
An incredible story from Rick and Aileen which was very appreciated by all.
President Peter then gave a big thank you to them to which was added our applause. Even mentioned his interest in HMAS Choules.