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Housing : June 2009
Members in the Community The Black Saturday bushfires have brought to our attention some members with an incredible commitment towards their communities. Lieske Tigchelaar speaks to a few of those helping out in the aftermath. fighting spirit T he destruction and devastation caused by the Black Saturday bushfires on 7 February tore apart families, destroyed homes and shattered whole communities. For some of our members affected by the fires, sitting down and giving up was not an option. Thomas Libreri ofAnyMaintenance Below right: Thomas and Tessa Libreri in less stressful times. Below: Thomas and Tessa lost their sheds and cars in the fire. Group and Libreri Homes has lived in Kinglake for 25 years. On the Saturday of the fires, Thomas was working in Kinglake until 3pm. ‘We had no warning,’ he says. ‘We had no concept of the fires until about three o’clock. I realised there was a fire at Kilmore when my wife, Tessa, went on the internet checking for updates. There were no warnings at all for Kinglake, right up until when we got hit at around 6pm – we weren’t prepared at all.’ The speed at which the fires descended on the township meant that no-one had time to engage their fire plans, even if they had one. The 1400ºC heat of the fire also meant that when the fire was upon them, there was no oxygen left in the air for the generators to work. ‘It makes sense now,’ says Thomas, ‘but at the time we really didn’t know, we just didn’t understand. ‘I’d actually started the pumps 10 minutes earlier to test them, and then when the firefront came they didn’t work, it was pretty frightening.’ The 1400o C heat of the fire also meant that when the fire was upon them, there was no oxygen left in the air for the generators to work Most of Thomas and Tessa’s neighbours’ houses were lost. Nine properties around them burned down and four neighbouring families took refuge at the Libreri’s that night, fighting for their lives. ‘With six kids under the age of 10 in the house, it was pretty traumatic,’ says Thomas. ‘Our house survived, but I lost all of my fencing, sheds, cars.We saved the house though, 56 HOUSING JUNE 2009