Black day remembered

L-R Black Saturday mosiac artist Kathryn Portelli with Macedon Ranges mayor Janet Pearce. (Supplied)

By Jessica Micallef

Many people still remember the events that unfolded on Saturday, February 7, 2009.

The Black Saturday fires that swept across Victoria caused catastrophic damage and claimed the lives of 173 people.

Twelve homes were destroyed in the small town of Redesdale, 30 kilometres north of Kyneton. Homes were also threatened in nearby Mia Mia.

One local resident, who did not want to be named, said 10 years on, she can remember the day clearly.

“We went down to the river for a swim because it was a ridiculously hot day,” she said.

“We heard all the fire truck sirens, so we decided it was probably time to go home and we chose to evacuate.”

She said at the time she had no inkling of how catastrophic the fires were.

“We had no idea it would actually get to our home – we really thought we were in a fairly safe area,” she said.

“But I’m thankful we left … my children were three and six at the time. We can rebuild homes but you just can’t rebuild lives.”

The family returned home more than 48 hours after the fires but she said it took them three months to get back to a normal life. Her children are still wary of fire.

“The kids’ emotional state took longer – just leaving them at school, they were scared of being away from us,” she said.

“They’re still scared of bonfires … you’ve got to pre-warn them that it’s a safe fire and it’s not going to hurt them.”

In 2010, a mosaic memorial was created at the Kyneton town hall. Constructed by artist Kathryn Portelli, the memorial has recently had lighting installed after the Macedon Ranges council received a state government grant.

A state commemoration service was held yesterday at the Royal Exhibition Building, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires on Thursday.

A service will be held at St Mary’s Anglican Church Woodend on February 7 from noon.