The Bushfire blog | An Eventful Life

The Bushfire blog

We're more than 3 hours from the nearest fires but smoke haze is often with us, as are deceptively beautiful sunsets


My blogs are usually about my eventing travels. But when we’re not overseas, Paul and I are based just outside of Melbourne in Australia where I am writing this. So, it’s probably not surprising that this blog is all about bushfires

First, thanks to the many people who have contacted us to see if we are okay and yes, this year we are thankfully well away from any fire activity! Our previous home, complete with horses, dogs and humans, was on high alert for many weeks during the 2009 fires when 173 people died during the Black Saturday fires, one of Australia’s worst ever fire periods. We were lucky, as were many of our friends, although several lost their homes

I’m not often lost for words, but I cannot express the selfish gratitude and relief I’m feeling for not living in any of many hundreds of areas currently burning around Australia

It is terrifying but also exhausting for people who live day after day under the pressure that the random nature of bushfires places on them. Some are lucky when their houses are saved but then begins the process of cleaning up, re-building or even waiting for the next wave of fire to roll through

But there are some good news stories amongst the horror of what is happening which are worth sharing

South Australia’s eventing Olympic silver medallist Megan Jones and her husband James, good friends of ours and well-known members of the Australian eventing community (and increasingly the world, through their great updates on Facebook) continue the clean- up of their property near Adelaide but are slowly getting back on track and the brilliant news is that Kev, their resident koala, is back and feeling better. There’s nothing like a koala to cheer you up …




One of Megan’s pupils, dressage rider Jessie Smith also had a narrow escape for both her family property and her horse Kiwi (whose full name ironically is Fire Storm). A story that brings a huge lump to the throat ….



The NSW Bushfires have impacted many rural areas – our own Alison Duthie and her family are on the edge of the Morton fire in the Southern Highlands area near Bundanoon. This fire is more than 17,000 hectares in size and is being controlled but, with temperatures soaring into the 40’s again today and high winds forecast for the area, things are looking very dangerous again

Having evacuated horses to the Moss Vale Showgrounds earlier this week, Ali and her family went back to Penrose to help the local fire brigade (it sure helps when all these equestrian people with HGV licences are around!). We’re keeping our fingers crossed for them today and all in that area

Also in NSW, the Willinga Park Equestrian Centre which recently announced it would be hosting its first eventing competition in October 2020, put in place an elaborate and large scale fire plan which saved not only the property but also the local area

‘None of us lost our houses and ... we didn’t lose a single animal’ said owner Terry Snow to the Sydney Morning Herald

With evacuation not an option due to the numbers of horses, cattle and staff on the 2000-acre property, implementing a fire plan devised by a specialist fire consultant saved the venue which last month opened a new conference centre alongside its other many facilities

Heavy equipment cleared fire trails, two large water trucks with a combined capacity of 2300 litres and employees covering the fire line were some of the strategies used to defend the property.

When the area was evacuated Willinga Park took in the families of staff and the community’s horses, and Terry Snow, who is the chairman of Capital Airport Group, scheduled a helicopter to fly in food and supplies

Despite a frightening experience, the property and possibly the lives of many people and animals were saved

Residents in fire areas in Victoria are also steeling for a difficult day with high temperatures and a change in wind direction as a cold front comes through. Bushfires in the north-east are still burning out of control while the Bairnsdale fires along the coast are also on high alert


       Amanda Ross through the bushland area of Tonimbuk's cross country course before the 2019 fires


Two and a half hours west of Bairnsdale is Tonimbuk Equestrian Centre, where the first International event of the Australian calendar is held each year. Last year the event was cancelled due to bushfire damage, but the Committee are working hard to get ready for this year’s event which will run on 7th & 8th March. We’ll be bringing you more about Tonimbuk’s ‘rise from the ashes’ soon but it is a good reminder that communities can and do bounce back from incredibly difficult times and that the equestrian community in particular is impressively resilient

If you would like to help the people, environment and animals affected, here are many ways that you can help the bushfire appeals and News Corp has created a great list of validated funds, from local area appeals to wildlife and supporting the firefighters, HERE

And help is coming from all parts of the world in many ways, big and small. An example is that of Blair Castle International in Scotland

“As in previous years, I didn't send Christmas cards either personally or through the horse trials office, choosing instead to donate the cost of cards and postage directly to charity” says Nicky Townsend, Event Director “This year, the plight of those affected by the devastating Australian bushfires really touched me, so I donated to several charities who are doing some really important work”

The official charity for Blair Castle 2020 has not been announced yet but an option to donate to the Australian charity WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) has been added to the Event’s Box Office

But my personal plea is, if anyone in Britain has the ability to control the weather, could you please just send a whole load of rain! I can’t believe that the 2019 eventing season in the UK was so badly affected by rain and, at the time I was cursing it.

Now I just want it to dump from the skies all over Australia ……….