A clear message to evacuate to save their lives

Sue and Ken Smith of Bruthen were forced to evacuate their home for the first time during the bushfires earlier this year.

Ken and Sue Smith were forced to evacuate their home of more than 30 years during the unprecedented bushfires earlier this year. Photo CFA.

Ken and Sue Smith were forced to evacuate their home of more than 30 years during the unprecedented bushfires earlier this year. Photo CFA.

Serving Victorian Country Fire Authority volunteers, Sue and Ken were told the ferocious fire was coming and the town was unable to be saved - they had to evacuate to save their lives.

"You think of all the little things you should have packed that you didn't pack," Sue said. "I brought my kids up in this house and I didn't want to lose all the little bits and pieces."

"Previous fire seasons have been intense but not as intense as this one," Sue said.

Buthen - Photo CFA.

Buthen - Photo CFA.

Sue and Ken knew all too well the risk of fires in their area, although the couple had never had to evacuate before.

"This time we were always going to evacuate - my husband is now asthmatic and I can't fight a fire on my own," Mrs Smith said.

"We can't expect help if he has an asthma attack due to the smoke, so we needed to get out," she said.

Sue and Ken prepared their house as best they could and evacuated to Sue's son's house in Lake Bunga.

"We prepared by wetting things down, we had run hoses, we had buckets of water everywhere, we cleaned up the yard as much as possible," Sue said.

"The fires had been going since November so we had been under stress for a long time."

"You wondered what you would end up with when you came home... if you 3ven had a home.

"So many people lost their homes and so many people were stressed... it was hard."

The fire came within two kilometres of Sue and Ken's house - a wind change saved their town and saved their home.

"When we came back about 36 hours later there were lots of people who had also returned walking around looking quite dazed thinking wow the town is still here."

Bruthen CFA. Photo CFA

Bruthen CFA. Photo CFA

Sue and Ken have battled many fires over the years with CFA and once got caught in a burn-over at Cobungra near Mount Hotham in the 2003 fires. Yet despite taking shelter in a fire truck while flames leaped over their heads, Sue still says last fire season was the scariest she's lived through.

"I felt I had no control over this fire - I wasn't able to do anything. If we stayed we could put spot fires out but we had very little water in the town and no shelter," Sue said.

"It surprises me how emotional I still am. Coming into another fire season I have said I can't do it again, I won't do it again, but we will and we'll prepare the place as much as we can.

"You can rebuild your home but saving your life is more important.

"Anyone who lives in a fire prone area get ready, prepare yourself, and really consider whether you need to stay - make the call and get out."

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