How do people react when devastating bushfires strike?

Bushfire emergency

Have you ever wondered how you would react if you were told a massive bushfire was bearing down on your house and that your whole community was at risk of being wiped out?

If you were told you had a few minutes to grab your most precious possessions – what would you take?

Where would you go?

How would you react?

Hopefully these are rhetorical questions for you, and once upon a time they might have been, but these past few weeks/months these questions have been real life for many in Australia.

But imagine that you were on the other side of the world while all this was happening – over 17000kms away – how would you feel?

This was us, in wet (at times), cold, green England, visiting our daughter and premature baby granddaughter while the fires were at their worst. We were addicted to social media, the RFS radio scanner, apps and news, trying to keep track of how Tumbarumba was faring.


Generous and caring

Richard Glover wrote a lovely piece in the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks ago: Love and respect shine through in a time of crisis and cited some generous and caring examples that applied to his local community.

These examples could just have easily applied to my small town of Tumbarumba and nearby communities like Batlow. Batlow was told it was ‘undefendable’ and the whole town was required to evacuate as the fire was heading straight for them and would more than likely destroy everything in its path.

Tumbarumba residents were in a similar position, and many left while they had the opportunity, taking what they could with them.

We heard and watched all this unfold from afar and worried about our home, our town, our friends and those brave souls who stayed to defend.

The fire took on a life of its own, being called a beast and a monster, as it destroyed everything in its path, in a way not previously seen.

I can relate to what Richard Glover says in the article:

You might imagine that, at a time like this, people would become selfish, trying to protect their own place; worried about how their own sheds and homes and stock will emerge.

I’ve seen little evidence of that. Instead, every moment seems to be spent worried about someone else.


But, as Richard goes on to explain, it’s been the opposite. Within our Tumbarumba area, Facebook and social media has been full of people offering a bed to those who have been evacuated and have nowhere to go; people organising food for the valiant fire fighters, those who stayed behind and evacuation centres; offers of help to feed stock and pets; news is being passed around generously regardless of the usual friend circles; fire fighters and support crews are being lauded as the heroes they undoubtably are; shops are offering free food and services and there is a sense of comradeship rarely felt in general day to day life.

Our community has always been tight- knit and immensely supportive of anyone who needs help and this has just escalated by a million percent.

In my own examples as we were away with our daughter and new baby in England, our house was checked, a containment line was graded around the house and a friend went in and collected some photo albums and other special things for us. At short notice we couldn’t think of what to suggest he collect for us, apart from photos, a hard drive, and canvases on the walls.

My husband, the Mathematician, especially asked him to get our wedding album – we recently celebrated our 40th anniversary – so he gets some serious brownie points for this request!!

Happy 40th anniversary to us
Happy 40th anniversary to us

Thankfully, our house was spared but it’s still not over as the fires are still burning nearby. People weren’t allowed back into town for some time, and water still has to be boiled before use. For the first weeks of January there was no power, no internet, limited communications and the smoke was thick and heavy blanketing the town. It was deserted apart from emergency personnel and those who had stayed behind to defend it.

Home sweet home

We are now home from our two month trip and trying to come to terms with what’s happened. We are feeling discombobulated with the heat, flies, mosquitoes, light, smoke haze, hearing the stories and seeing the devastation around us. Seeing our house again was such a good feeling, but it was tempered by the fact that friends and others we know in town have lost everything.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home in Tumbarumba

The drive home through burnt out pine forests and native Australian bush was grim and stark with charred black being the predominant colour, instead of the variety of green we’re used to seeing.

Locals helping locals

Our town is rallying with many fundraising activities started and supported by generous, caring people from all over the world. I thought I’d list a few of the local fundraisers to show just how amazing our community is.

You can click on the links for more information or to donate. I know there are several celebrities raising millions of dollars but every little bit helps and these have been set up by locals keen to help locals in their time of need.


All funds received will be distributed on an as needs basis, overseen by a panel of independent community leaders. Please mark donations “bushfire”.

The following bank details may be used – Bank: Bendigo, BSB: 633000, Account: 130534639, Name: Rotary Club of Tumbarumba Service Account















These have been set up by generous locals who will ensure all money raised will go to where it is needed most. Also many groups are organising collection points for household items needed for those who have lost everything. Everyone is doing their bit to help in their own way.

So in answer to the question in my title – people are reacting with gratitude, support and care. Hugs are the order of the day when greeting friends not seen for a while and kindness is everywhere.

Thanks go to everyone who had anything to do with saving our communities, we’d be lost without you.

Even after the inferno, beauty remains.

The beauty of gratitude.


Maybe you could consider visiting those communities devastated by bushfires in the coming months. Not to gawk, but to help by spending money, talking to locals and showing your support. They will need all the help they can get. The Empty Esky campaign is a great way to help out these towns.

Take care of each other and thanks for your support.

Deb xx

Linking up with Denyse for #Lifethisweek

You can also find Deb’s World in lots of other places – stay in touch by clicking any of the buttons below.

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40 Replies to “How do people react when devastating bushfires strike?”

  1. It really sounds like you have some fabulous friends and neighbours Deb, its at devastating times like this that I think most people stand up and help others. Hope you settle back into the heat and lifestyle quickly now.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m sure most of us have tried to imagine how we would react if our homes were under dire threat. Communities that are on the coast – yes I would be down on the beach… Towns inland where some evacuated, some stayed and generously looked out for the property of the leavers – how would you make that decision? So glad to hear your home was fine. Good wishes to all your townsfolk.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Deb, it’s so hard when you’re on the other side of the world and reading about the devastation of people, fauna & flora, and land.

    I’m constantly in touch with friends and relatives in QLD and NSW but it is a disconnect because I’m not there on the ground and can’t help.

    The one-plus billion animals killed is devastating and heart-wrenching. Our government doesn’t have much to say about this – or any of it really – because they’re animals and not people. Why are humans so arrogant…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes I hear you Nilla. There are so many issues to deal with and the devastation affects all of us people, plants, animals….I undertake the feelings of disconnect very well and suffered this while away. Now we’re home we can at least so something tangible to help. Also I hope my words help in some small way. Thanks so much for your heartfelt comment.


  4. The devastation and loss of life is unimaginable to us here in the UK. I’m glad your home has survived, and wish you and friends/neighbours lots of luck for the future. From what you say, the local community spirit will become even stronger now.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Deb, your questions made me think of my daughter. She was in Qld when their horses were evacuated in Myrtleford and she and her boyfriend ended up driving the long trip back because she was so worried wanted to be there to help. Not just her own property but friends. People truly do band together when disaster strikes. I’m so glad your house is ok and you had so many helping friends and neighbours. This is when the true Aussie spirit emerges. All the best to you and your amazing community Deb. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Miriam that’s so sad about their long drive back, your daughter sounds like a real trooper. I hope all is well with your daughter and her horses now. What a great spirit we have when these things happen. Thanks for your good wishes. xx


  6. A sense of community is special especially at these devastating times, Deb. Not only are the residents physically helping each other but also supporting each other through love. I cannot imagine the devastation, the worry you had being on the other side of the world but I know from reading your blog that the people of Tumbarumba have a strong sense of family – the community is the family and it will be a long hard road back but you will all get there through love and support and working together. xx #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So glad you arrived home safely, Deb, and your home survived the fires. I wish you and your community lots of luck for the future. Your town will be able to rebuild and thrive through support, love and working together. #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose everything and to be so far away when such a catastrophe is taking place but I love how the community has rallied – I think no one does that better than the Aussies. Also pleased you are home safe and sound and that you have a home to return to – I’ve been thinking of you. Great links here, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bushfires are a nightmare Deb – we had a giant one near us about 5 years ago and it still feels like yesterday. We lost a small town and many farming properties and a huge amount of bushland. As I drive along the highway I can see the green coming back, but there’s still a lot of skeletal dead trees that will never recover.
    I’m so glad your house was saved, but there’s a long road ahead for the communities around you – but isn’t it wonderful that it brings out the best in people and that kindness and generosity are still alive and well.
    There was an excellent article in the paper from the Barefoot Investor on what happened after losing his farm to fire six years ago and the recovery timeline. There’s so much to deal with and I hope you keep your head up and the famous Deb smile in place through it all xxx And welcome home!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for your words and welcome home Leanne. I actually saw that article you mentioned and it all rang true. We have had rain in the last few days and people are already noticing green shoots popping up. You’re right it will take some time.


  10. I am so glad to hear that your place was safe while you were away… I can’t imagine how it would have felt being so far away during this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Often in the face of disaster people truly come together. Strangers helping strangers. As we watched from afar through your social media posts, we could not really even imagine what it would feel like to have a fire so near and ready to swallow up everything. In 2013 our city had a massive flood and we live 1/2 block from the river. We were on vacation on the other side of the country. Our little community was the only one along the river not to be evacuated. The devastation to neighbours was catastrophic. Our gratitude to those who offered to get things out of the house just in case remains to this day. Our choices were the same as yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing this Sue, I have really appreciated having your support along the way. The flood sounds devastating and very similar to our circumstances. I agree in the face of adversity and disaster, people do come together – this has been shown time and time again and we’re so grateful to everyone for their love and support.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s been so devastating to see the fires but also so heartwarming seeing people come together. I do plan on visiting some of the communities once things have settled. NSW South Coast is like a second home to me and I have friends who grew up there too so Mogo burning down along with several others hit a bit close to home for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It must be so heartbreaking to see all of the devastation and yet so heart repairing to see all the people who are helping each other. To know that people were willing to try to save things for you while they needed to think about saving things for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Goodness Debbie. I have been following the fires in horror, so I am very glad to hear your home is okay, but it must be so hard with so much devastation nearby. How is the air? I found it very hard to breathe here in Canada during the summer forest fires, so I hope you and your family’s lungs are holding up okay!

    p.s. This post did make me think what I’d want to save…It would be the same as you, hard drives and photo albums!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Josy, the air is good now compared to what it was even a week ago. We are all now addicted to an app called Air Rater which lists the air quality of places. Thanks for letting me know what you’d save, I think we’re probably all similar in what we’d try to grab first. Thanks for your visit and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. While I knew that you and your home were safe – at least for the time being – I read this post while holding my breath, my heart in my throat. So very sad for all who have been affected. For the lives lost, the precious animals, the land ravaged. Praying you continue to stay safe…yes, big brownie points to your husband for asking the neighbors to save your anniversary album. Please keep us posted. Thankful you are safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. So heartening to read this and remember from our days teaching in country NSW just how communities look out for each other. Our first term at Weilmoringle NSW in 1976 had us “stuck” there because of major flooding from Qld rivers and big storms. We were 10 weeks without getting out for supplies (and just getting to town) but the local farmer gave us a relief of a meal at his house once a week – came & got us on his tractor and even though we were not known, the local shops in Brewarrina were OK to send us supplies via plane and helicopter. It was pretty full on but I guess we learned a lot about our own resilience. I read Richard’s article in the paper and recall all his stories over the years of building his mud place. Thanks for sharing REAL life Deb. You do this well…but a little respite would be good, right?? Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week’s optional prompt is 4/51 Australia 27.1.2020. Hope to see you there too. Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Denyse, your story of the floods is very scary but shows the way communities help out those who need it. I know you ‘get it’ and yes some respite from ‘real’ life would be good but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon! I’ll be joining you for #lifethisweek


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