ACT News


'We lost stuff but we gained other things'

The images of Ione Kitson in the rubble of her Stromlo forestry settlement home were among the most powerful from the aftermath of the January 18 firestorm.

A decade after the disaster, Ms Kitson said she was feeling many emotions.

The single mum and her brother Derek Hamilton had to run for their lives as the inferno took hold and the house exploded. Her daughters Valerie, now 24, and Sian, now 20, were just children at the time and, fortunately, not at the house when the firestorm hit.

''The feeling that comes to surface was relief that my family was saved. It was a close call for everyone but we all managed to survive,'' Ms Kitson said.

''Sadness, also, that we lost so much and my children lost a lot of innocence in their childhood. I feel particularly saddened every time I see [other] bushfires on the TV. I feel so empathetic towards the people because it's something you wonder if you can ever really recover from.

''We've got a house now that is full of stuff … yet, there's so much missing. Like photos of the kids as babies, we have none of those. We have no drawings from their preschool time. No primary school pictures. All the little things. The medals my daughter won in dancing and swimming all went and can never be replaced.

''But at the same time I think of the good things like how people around you got together as a community afterwards and tried to help out others.''

Ms Kitson has since moved back to Stromlo, saying in hindsight she should never have tried to save her home.

''I know now the very reason my brother and I survived was because my children weren't there. If I had to try to defend them as well, we just would never have made it,'' she said. ''You think about the fragility of being a human being.''