Photos and birth certificates. Two surfboards. Their grandson’s Christmas presents. When Pam and Paul made the decision to leave their Kempsey property in the face of the advancing New South Wales bushfires, they faced an unimaginable choice over what to bring with them and what to leave behind – knowing that they may lose those items forever if the bushfires couldn’t be stopped.
People in Kempsey and the surrounding area were told that if they stayed in their homes, there was no guarantee of help reaching them if anything happened. Like Pam and Paul, most made the decision to go to the evacuation centre at the Kempsey Showgrounds.
An eerie feeling had settled over the area. “It’s hard to imagine,” says Paul. “But the sky was orange and the sun was pink, purple. You couldn’t see clouds, you could see nothing…no birds, no sounds, no animals, everything had just cleared out.”
It was in these circumstances that they found support at the evacuation centre, where they were welcomed by friendly Red Cross volunteers. Pam and Paul arrived in their caravan, so they had a roof over their heads, but a stream of people still came by with food and water, and volunteers were there to offer comfort in distressing times.