Twenty years on from the Canberra fires
Remembering the Canberra bushfires of 2003:
That community-led recovery began at the same time as the disaster itself was unfolding. On that day in 2003, it was my neighbour who knocked on the door and told me what was happening. I’d been out of town all morning and my car radio was broken. I could see the fires burning into the suburbs as I drove west into Woden, but I hadn’t heard any of the emergency warnings. People opened their door to strangers to offer a safe place to stay, gave clothes or furniture, offered a cup of tea and a listening ear to someone who looked like they were having a hard time processing what was happening around them.
I lived in Canberra then, and although we lived in the inner north and were safe from the actual fires, I well remember the dark sky and heavy smoke. It was also the days of dialup or no internet at all, and our only news was from the ABC Radio emergency broadcasts (with ominous siren sounds on the hour) and word-of-mouth — and I remember no one having much idea of what was going on.