Friday, 17 January 2020

What do you take ?
Many parts of Australia have been devastated by the worst bushfires in our country's history.  The mid to north coast of NSW suffering major fires in October and currently horrendous fires on Kangaroo Island, East Gippsland, the far south coast of NSW, Batemans Bay area as well as areas around Southern Highlands and Blue Mountains (I am sure there are many areas I have missed)

View from our living area, New years eve 5.40am first reaction OMG

We live on a small property on the far south coast of NSW and spent around 4 days on Emergency Alert level with fires raging to the north and west of us. Our biggest threat was potential ember attack and grass fire which fortunately did not happen. We have been extremely lucky with changes in wind and the tremendous efforts of all the Emergency Services. Thats not to say we didn't have a few anxious days with 2 1/2 days of total blackness with an eerie red glow, raining ash and choking smoke. 

packed and ready to go 5:00pm 4th January

The car and caravan were hooked up packed and ready to go. Our property is well prepared and we are well equipped to stay and defend unless directed otherwise.

Apart from the obvious (passports, important paper work, family photos, clothes etc) what do you take in these situations ? I have dedicated hard drives and backups of my photo collections which were also packed. During this crisis we had the luxury of time to pack and prepare many people didn't.

As a keen modeller (trains and planes) I also have a pretty extensive book collection many probably irreplaceable. In the end I decided to take my Camden locos and rolling stock, Byways of Steam 21 and Pansy the Camden tram in the event I lost the shed and had to rebuild. I also took my N gauge collection which fits in a shoebox. 

Many of the locos and rolling stock are out of production such as the Trax 20 class and Bergs 30 Tanks. The crisis flagged a couple of issues as a model railway enthusiast:

1)  How are your models stored perhaps on the layout or in draws or a dedicated case.  In a crisis can you pick them up quickly and transport them without damage. All my wagons were in a purpose built box and locos in boxes in a plastic storage draw so it was easy to grab them and put in the car.

2) Does your household insurance cover your collections such as books or your trains - are these items listed on your home contents policy ? Might be time to review

These fires moved with incredible speed and unpredictable behaviour and demonstrated that many towns that had never been threatened before were not safe such as Batlow, Eden, Mallacoota in Victoria not to mention historic villages of Cobargo and Mogo 

The fire situation may go on for months and the RFS have advised it is something we may have to live with for some time. We have learnt a lot from the experience about what we take, how we store documents and items we would take so they can be gathered quickly. A key thing is it could happen to you so be prepared.

To all the fire fighters, supporting teams, Emergency Services, volunteers from overseas and the Australian Defence Force personnel thank you for your fantastic efforts. Stay Safe.


  1. Thanks for this post and good to see that you were spared the conflagration that has enveloped many over the past few months.

    You have raised two interesting points. What to pack and what to leave is a very personal choice. I suspect that, personally, non hobby related items may take precedence which leads to your second point about insurance. I am one who has not taken out the additional cover for collections and this leaves me very vulnerable in the event of loss or damage. That said, many of the models are no longer available and could not be replaced even if insured. I wonder if in the event of a threat I might resort to the age old practice of burying precious objects. That might sound a bit drastic but properly packaged and secured in the plastic storage draws, precious models would probably survive entombment for a could of weeks.

    cheers Phil

  2. Thank you for the blog post. I am comforted knowing that you and your family are safe. I too, am in a potential fire risk area, my home (before I owned it) was surrounded by a fast moving grass fire in 2006, and saved by the efforts of a volunteer. My collection of trains are also not insured, but you make a good point, what models, if anything, should be saved. Knowing that my house is defendable makes my decision to stay logical, and I am spending money on watering and sprinkler systems for fire defence. If I fail, and the house goes, then be philosophical. May be an opportunity to change your modelling direction, and focus. Each person must do an assessment.

  3. Hi Rob and Phil,
    Thanks for your feedback and good wishes. There is no right answer to your house being threatened by fire, other than protect the lives of family, pets and yourself above all else and if that means leaving then thats the right decision. Some people who did loose everything here had minutes from the time they saw the fire until they escaped.

    We have revised our fire plan and once we are on Watch and Act, all the housekeeping (blocking and filling gutters, setting up hoses, sprinklers etc) prep, packing goes into action rather than wait to Emergency level.

    Phil makes a good point of many locos and rolling stock are no longer available and even if insured replacement of those items is unlikely so perhaps Rob's point of a new direction is a good alternative.

    Thanks for your thoughts lets hope its a situation we don't have to face again other than being well prepared