Heed the lessons that those involved in the Carwoola blaze learned the hard way
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Heed the lessons that those involved in the Carwoola blaze learned the hard way

When the Carwoola fires razed 11 homes and impacted many more one year ago this week, they left an indelible mark on the firefighters and the community.

The erratic ferocity of the blaze was unexpected on a day that only rated mid-scale on the danger levels.

The fire was an important warning to all about the vigilance required when living in Australia.

That message is backed up by new statistics that show in the ACT, Belconnen - a relatively central suburb - experienced the most bush and grass fires during the past five years. It was followed by Kambah.

Not the reserves at Namadgi or Tidbinbilla. Both locations are about 20 minutes from the city.

Similarly, the Carwoola community lies about 20 minutes from Queanbeyan. It's a rural area, there are lots of horses and some larger sheep farms.

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Emergency services personnel said after the Carwoola fire that many residents of the area treated it like it was a suburb of the city. They weren't prepared for the reality of a significant bushfire event. The same could be said for those who did not experience Canberra's devastating blaze in 2003.

Kevin and Vanessa Lindley were prepared to fight in theory and had water at the ready, but they weren't prepared for the ferocity of the flames. The fire towered over their machinery shed, and only then did they realise it was too much for them to handle.

Kevin's advice to anyone in a similar situation? Get the hell out if you know there's a fire within five kilometres.

Looking back, the Lindleys said they had ample time to get out. They might have even been able to save some of their belongings, like their beloved Goldwing motorbike, if they knew what was coming.

But that's the challenge in these circumstances. Even the firefighters didn't know what to expect.

The CSIRO describes bushfires as "hell on earth", and "one of the most terrifying natural phenomena that anyone is likely to experience".

It's descriptions like these that the Carwoola community have experienced and learned from, as did those involved in the Canberra bushfires.

But it's information that others don't seem to take on board until seemingly they experience it firsthand.

Every year, the Rural Fire Service hammers home the message that the key to survival in these situations is having a premeditated plan.

Now is the time to prepare yours.

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