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Beyond the Bale : April May 2009
April – May 2009 Beyond the Bale Cool under fire The stories of horror and devastation arising from Victoria’s Black Saturday fires are tempered by accounts of humble heroics, sheer luck and happy surprises. Publican Fred Whitlock credits his Merino coat for helping keep the heat off MARKETING 13 “I had to go down the big driveway to the Giffards’ and that’s a pretty hairy track. The fire was still a slow burn through there,” he says. The three men eventually revived the pump, and fred went on his way, but not before taking a photo of the Giffards to show their wives (who were sheltering at his pub) and re-soaking his coat in the pool. “The rest of the night I basically spent going up and down between about three or four properties putting out spot-fires in this fine wool coat,” he says. “It did its job very well. It’s gone to the dry cleaner and come up a treat. It actually doesn’t even smell that badly of bushfire smoke.” The Yarra Valley community, however, has been deeply affected. “There’s a real sadness in our community ... a lot of funerals to go to this week, and we’re on the fringe of the fire area.” The secondary economic impacts in the fire’s aftermath are expected to cause further hardship. Aside from many small businesses likely to succumb to a reduction in tourism, many primary producers in the area have lost their crops and livestock amid a global economic crisis and lingering drought. “It’s real stuff of adversity. You just PHoTo: PAul JoNES as a fire front surged across the Yarra Valley. By 7pm, the worst had passed over the main road; the smouldering remains punctuated by the odd exploding car and gas bottle. F Amid the hubbub at his hotel – an impromptu evacuation centre filled with hundreds of locals and their dogs, goats, chickens and more – fred got word that his neighbours further down the valley were unable to escape the advancing fires by the main road. He climbed into his Toyota land Cruiser and set out to help. “I said to my wife, ‘I’ll just pop up and tell the CfA there are some people trapped up there’,” he says. “I knew I was just going to go up as far as I could go.” With all main roads blocked, fred negotiated his way through a bush track that the fire had just swept through. “look, it was pretty hairy, there were a lot of trees down, but the land Cruiser did its job as it should do and I just sort of ploughed through it.“ rom the roof of his pub, the Yarra Glen Grand Hotel, fred Whitlock watched An ex-army boy, fred made a stop at his own house (which was largely unscathed) up on the ridgeline backing onto Kinglake National Park, to change clothes. “I was comfortable enough that if I got the car completely stuck or stuffed I would be able to walk out, but I knew I needed some protective clothing,” he says. “I went into the house, which was full of smoke – the smoke detectors were going off and screaming – and I’m looking for my big New Zealand Swanndri*, which I couldn’t find anywhere,” he says. “I was going through the wardrobe and I thought, ‘Ah! Wool jacket – yes, excellent!’.” fred had a choice of two woollen trench coats. one was an ‘Italian number’ that he considered “a bit fluffy; too cashmere-y”. He selected the second: an Australian fine Merino Country Road jacket (“absolutely perfect”), which he hosed with water before leaving. Thankfully, fred’s trapped neighbours had made it to safety, so he headed to his other neighbouring property, owned by Allan and Rob Giffard, who were struggling to restart their fire pump. gotta keep moving forward. It’s pretty tough,” fred says. “But, you know, there are some good economic strategies coming out, and campaigns about buying local, and there’s been fantastic bushfire support. “All I can say is, once the fire season’s over, book a trip and come and stay at a small business, a B&B in the valley, visit a café, buy a Yarra Valley wine the next time you’re at the bottle shop.” More information: www.yarraglengrand. com.au; www.visityarravalley.com.au * A pure wool bush shirt. fire-resistant merino A high ignition temperature, a low heat of combustion and the necessity for an oxygen level higher than that which occurs in nature means Merino is less likely to catch alight than most synthetics. However, its low rate of heat release, its tendency to produce a foam that self-extinguishes, and the fact that it never melts further explains why Merino has the highest natural fire resistance of all commonly encountered textile fibres.
February March 2009
June August 2009