It’s really easy for those of us that aren’t anywhere near fire affected areas to just think how lucky the people are that lost their houses but didn’t lose their lives. Which is certainly right but in a way it also helps us selfishly move on.
Apart from the sheer terror of thinking that a fire may be coming your way and at worst you might be killed, at the least just threaten but then it moves on, when people do lose their properties, the long term effects from such a devastating event loss can, I believe, still felt from one generation to the next couple. And I don’t really think we give this side of things much of a thought.
My father’s family home burnt down when he was a young boy. Not in a bush fire but a fire is a fire. In a story that you could almost suspect might be made up, my Dad was walking home from school one day, a couple of young mates in tow, as a couple of fire trucks went whooshing past them with the sirens echoing down the street. “They’re on their way to your place Ian,” one of the kids playfully joked. Not much notice was taken one can assume apart from a cheeky rebuttal from my Dad.
Ten minutes or so later the kids rounded the corner to my Dad’s home and there were the fire trucks pulled up in front of what used to be his home. The fire was still blazing and it was clear apparently right then that they were going to lose absolutely everything.
I don’t truly know how Dad felt at that point, let alone the poor kid with him that had found himself in a horrible boy who cried wolf scenario but what I do know is that as of that day, part of my Dad’s childhood story went up in flames for the simple fact that every single photo that had ever been taken of him and the rest of the family was destroyed right there and then.
I never got to know his Mum or his Dad so I don’t know the effect it had on either of them, losing every photographic memory of their kids when they were little but I imagine the grief of that must have haunted them a lot.
Being the young kid that Dad was, I’d imagine he might have been disappointed about losing some of his toys or things that really could have been replaced once the insurance had come through, but I doubt he’d have thought ‘One day I’ll have a son and daughter and I’ll never be able to show them the child that I was.”
And the reason that can have long term effect is that I could never picture my Dad as anything younger than how I remember him when I launched myself into the world. So as far back as I can remember him mainly swanning around in a pair of shorts, often no top and smoking a packet of Rothman’s with dangerous regularity.
As is life, and in my case from a broken family, down the track you start to get cranky or damaged by things you felt should have been done better from your parent to you. So you just keep hanging on to that story of how everything was about you.
One photo of my Dad as a toddler sitting on the beach turned up a year or so ago. It stirred something in me that maybe would have happened years ago if that fire hadn’t deleted my Dad’s visual story. I could see that once upon a time he too was little. It gave me huge empathy towards him and was unbelievably healing.
So yes it’s a blessing when fire doesn’t claim any physical victims, but the loss of items like all someone’s family photos can have major long term impact.