Black Saturday taught Jindivick Ruth McGowan a lot about disasters and trauma. But one motto she now uses every year during fire season is “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
Recent high fire danger days have triggered memories of that tragic day 10 years ago.
Ruth, who was Baw Baw Shire mayor at the time, defended and saved her house that day.
Fire warnings continue to reignite a high level of fear and anxiety for Ruth and other residents. It is a day they will never forget.
Many text each other to check-in on how they are coping, and breathe a sigh of relief when conditions improve.
As a resident, Ruth does not expect that level of anxiousness will ever change. And, as a former mayor who played a role in the recovery, she knows how difficult it is for a community to bounce back.
The Bunyip Ridge Fire burnt for five weeks until it was declared out. Ruth said many people refer to “that day” but, she said, it wasn’t one day, it was weeks, months and for many it was years.
“It stayed black out there for a long time, it was a dark landscape that affected people’s emotional and mental state.
“The trauma continues to play out. Our community is very different to what it was 10 years ago.
“Some of the people who lost homes have moved out of the area, sadly marriages broke up and sadly people have died.
“But a lot of people really pulled together to focus on the recovery which has been a huge positive.
“We’ve learnt a lot about how to deal with people who have been affected by disaster,” she said.