Roxby Downs Chronicle: Junita Lyon's harrowing tale of spending seven terrifying weeks behind a roadblock

Up in smoke: The lush green land of East Gippsland burnt to the ground as volunteer firefighters and other emergency service organisations desperately tried their hardest to protect the bush, properties and livestock. Photos: Supplied.
Up in smoke: The lush green land of East Gippsland burnt to the ground as volunteer firefighters and other emergency service organisations desperately tried their hardest to protect the bush, properties and livestock. Photos: Supplied.

East Gippsland is a beautiful region of southeastern Australia, encompassing beaches, lakes and river systems.

Some rivers start in the high country and are fed by the melting of the snow.

It is a lush green land of mountains and trees with patches of farmland that turn into beautiful wilderness with nature in abundance.

Over the last seven weeks, it has burnt to the ground as volunteer firefighters and other emergency service organisations desperately tried their hardest to protect the bush, properties, homes and livestock.

Every one of these men and women has gone beyond the call of duty, loyalty and bravery.

Each small town has its own small fire station which houses their fire truck.

They are dedicated locals that know the dangers they face living in this part of the country.

The first thing I notice every morning is the heavy smoke in the air, then we check and hope the day has no winds that will fan the fire further.

Bark Hut.

Bark Hut.

We all frantically check on friends on our Facebook pages to see if they have posted and are safe.

To say lives are shattered and broken is an understatement.

Every member of these communities are exhausted to the bone, implementing fire plans ready to fight for their years of hard work and passion.

We all sit ever watchful of the sky, the smoke and the wind direction.

Clifton Creek School.

Clifton Creek School.

I walked around the relief centre where I saw many faces I knew.

I hugged my old doctor who is close to 90 and all she said was, "I want to go home," in a shaky voice as she burst into tears.

She has a farm and no idea what they will find.

Caravans, campers, the army and the Red Cross were at work helping those who needed it.

I met with Jody Crane, Wendy McPhane, Simon Walsh and Kay Miller who had set up at the Lucknow Hall in Bairnsdale, a drop-off and collection point where people have left clothes, food and water for the hundreds who have lost everything.

The hall was packed with people and they told me 700 people had come through so far.

It was incredible what they had achieved in only a matter of days.

So much had been donated that they had extended and were operating three centres.

A woman came and whispered to me, "do you need anyone to chat to?" She was there to look after those that needed a hug and chat.

Wendy who came up with the idea told me they now needed petrol vouchers, gift cards and toiletries, they already had enough food and clothes.

Hay truck.

Hay truck.

Sue Braggs, a very dear friend, has opened her house to the truck drivers and those coordinating the delivery of the hay, food and water needed across the region.

Of an evening they sit around and work out the logistics of how they will get to the cattle left stranded and not fenced in.

They call themselves Gippsland Horse and Stock Safe Bushfire Assistance and are doing a tremendous job, all are skilled in what they do.

A small convoy had just left with 80 bales of hay to Reedy Flat about 110 kilometres in the high country, it has a little pocket of land that didn't burn with a desperate need for feed.

Social media has also played a role in helping the community, a Facebook group has been set up that helps keep those that use social media informed.

In less than a week they got 45,500 new members.

Administrators and moderators manage the group 24/7.

Sue Hawton, one of the administrators, was very emotional when she told me it had become a big task.

There is a break in the weather, so things such as delivering food for the animals caught in this tragedy that have not died by some miracle because they found their way through a corridor in the fire, are being tended to and many people belonging to Wires are spreading food out in the burnt-out areas for the native animals so they don't starve after surviving.

Houses and lives have been lost, my son's old school and our friends and neighbours homes burnt to the ground.

Kay Miller.

Kay Miller.

The battle and horror is real and some feel guilty their house survived when their neighbours burnt.

The stories of how people survived shake you to the core.

Residents such as my friend Jenni Stucki have been at their homes defending them from the flames as they spent every waking moment defending their properties.

Many have been evacuated and do not even know if their house is standing, the news comes through daily, trickling in from those who have been allowed back into the small towns or never left.

Sue Braggs with some timely reminders.

Sue Braggs with some timely reminders.

This disaster is beyond anything we have witnessed before and is engulfing our beautiful country in every state and region on the coastline.

It will take the country a long time to heal, some never will.

I know it has broken my heart to see my old communities in so much pain and disaster.

I cannot go home yet to the outback as we are still in defending mode as the weather heats up again.

Through it all, the Australian spirit, resilience and a need to help shows through as we shed a tear for our fellow Australians, the loss of wildlife and the land and we love.

Lucknow Hall volunteers.

Lucknow Hall volunteers.