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Lessons from the past


Morris Webb is "all churned up inside" and receives personal support from Red Cross worker, Beth Stapleton at the Sorell relief centre

Sitting amid the hustle and bustle of a busy Tasmanian bushfires relief centre, Morris Webb looks a little overwhelmed. It is hardly surprising. He survived another big fire, many years ago.

"I'm all churned up inside," Morris says. Having survived major fires in Tasmania nearly 50 years ago, Morris explains that he was not going to risk his life.

"I seen the smoke and everything so I got back up to me humpy and got me wireless and then I knew what was going on. But that was it so I got out."

Morris says it is really tough not knowing if your home has been burnt down or not, "We don't know, no contact, no phones, no power."

Tina Siely, Morris Webb's daughter, says when the fires were raging, it was so worrying not knowing if her father was alive. Tina, lives near Hobart, about one and a half hours drive from where her father was living with a friend in Murdanna on the Tasman Peninsula.

"It was only 12 hours that I knew he was missing and it was very stressful until I found out that he was ok," she says.

Red Cross Responds at the Relief centre

Tina managed to get in touch with her father after he registered with the Red Cross run National Registration Inquiry System at the Sorell relief centre.

Tina recalls how happy she was when she managed to reach her dad on a friend's mobile phone. "I was elated, I was crying and he was crying that someone was trying to find him. It was very emotional."

It is "terrific and very important" that Red Cross runs the service, enabling people to get in touch with family or friends during emergencies, Morris says.

"My daughter wouldn't have found out only I registered … so I'm pleased she did. A Red Cross lady put my daughter in touch which was fabulous."

Preparing the property for fire

The skills Morris had with the bush came in handy when preparing the property for fire.

Tina says it was great to know her father had got ready for the fires, saving him a lot of stress as a result. "I found out that if it wasn't for my father preparing for fires, the property would have been lost."

Morris has settled down in a new flat, because his small shack and caravan were badly smoke damaged. Preparing for the fires and having plenty of family support has helped her father cope better afterwards, Tina says.

Despite the stress of surviving another fire, Morris says he loves the natural beauty and living in Tasmania. "She's good all over the state," he says.

Now that he has started his recovery, Morris has a playful glint in his eye as he reflects that he would not mind heading to mainland Australia for the first time in his life. "I've never been to Melbourne or anywhere like that. I'd love to get over there one of these days but the finances are another thing aren't they?"

Make a donation to support the work of our Emergency Services staff and volunteers, like those at the Sorell relief centre as they prepare, respond and provide relief to individuals, households and communities during disasters.


Photo:Australian Red Cross/Antony Balmain