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Church responds to bushfires

Fires have destroyed many suburbs of Western Australia. Photo by Alison Atkinson-Phillips
AT 12.15 on Sunday afternoon, Liz Lamb and her husband Bill noticed smoke near their home on the edge of the Darling Range Regional Park.

Ms Lamb realised the fire was down in the valley, and arranged for her daughter, who also lives in the area, to evacuate to their house.

However, not long after, she was preparing for her own evacuation.

“We saw a glow coming over the hill, and a roar,” she recalled.

It was at that point that her daughter loaded the five grandchildren into the car again, this time to Ms Lamb’s other daughter’s house in another suburb.

“The men were hosing down trees and I grabbed a few things that I keep in case of an emergency,” said Ms Lamb.

“I rang my son, all teary and said, ‘If I take the hard drive, will I keep all my photos?’

“So I just sort of had time to see what I could grab, then the police knocked on the door and said to get out.”

Stories like Ms Lamb’s are told by Uniting Church congregation members around the eastern suburbs of Perth.

Almost everyone knows someone who was affected.

A few suburbs away, Margaret Johnston and her daughter Anna were watching events unfolding on TV.

Anna was worried about Church responds to bushfires friends and checking in with them on Facebook.

She wanted to do something to help, so when she heard the evacuation centre needed bedding and food for pets, they
packed some old sleeping bags in the car and drove to the local late night supermarket to pick up pet food and toiletries for evacuees.

On Monday, one of the ministers working in the evacuation centre realised clean underwear was in short supply for those who, unlike Liz, hadn’t had time to grab a bag of essentials.

She called her sister, who works for a UnitingCare agency, who were more than happy to help.

As well as providing new underwear and socks from their Armadale store, they arranged for 200 pamper packs to be delivered.

Despite the drama, and a few sleepless nights, Ms Lamb’s story has a happy ending.

By Thursday morning, Ms Lamb was taking care of her youngest granddaughter, Emily, while her daughter returned home for the first time.

The smoke was still in the air, and there will be lots of washing to be done to get the smell out of bedding and furniture, but their homes are intact, and they are now thinking about how they can give back.

Ms Lamb was encouraged to know UnitingCare agencies have been able to offer some support to those affected more than she was.

“When you see it on TV, so many times, fires, the floods, cyclone, it just goes on and on but there’s always the facility; still more people can do,” she said.

Alison Atkinson-Phillips is the editor of Revive, the newspaper of the WA Synod

Photo : Fires have destroyed many suburbs of Western Australia. Photo by Alison Atkinson-Phillips