Retiring to a quiet busy lifestyle, and volunteer firefighting

Volunteer firefghter, Marie Cook retired to the coast 25 years ago

When Marie Cook and her husband retired to their 75-acre property near Batemans Bay, signing up as a volunteer firefighter was not part of the plan.

The couple left their Public Service lives in Canberra 25 years ago for the peace and tranquility of a bush lifestyle at East Lynne.

Bushfires changed that.

Marie signed up for a brigade 15 years ago and is one of four female firefighters in the 11-member group.

“One lady is probably in her 40s and the rest of us are in our 60s,” Marie said.

“When people think of fire­fighters they assume they need to be big and muscly. That’s not the case but you do need to be fit. There are actually a lot of women.

“I joined because you need to know what you’re up against. You need to become wise about fire”.

Marie has attended many fires including a big one at the Western Milton 18 months ago, but nothing compares to the fires that ripped through the Eurobodalla area at New Year.

Firefighting consumed her December and early January.

“It was very confronting going into places that had been burnt,” Marie said.

“There were firefighters who lost their homes which was very sad.

“The community is in shock. I still feel it. Thousands of houses were lost. One township I visited lost 106 houses out of 200.

“This is the last thing people would have expected as it was so early on New Year’s Eve. People may have received a text message telling them to get out but they were probably asleep.

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“Five people died. It came across so fast. From the firefighters’ point of view, none of us had seen anything like it.”

Marie and her husband had to evacuate their own property for four nights at the start of December and there was some damage, but their home was spared.

Luck played a part.

A tank sprang a leak exactly where it was needed to put out a fire.

“This was fortunate because it would have wrecked our water system and electrical system and been a major disaster rather than just a tiny inconvenience,” Marie explained.

It is the quietness of the area that appeals to Marie.

“We have about five acres cleared where our buildings are and we have wombats and kangaroos and a lot of native animals, which is very special,” she said.

“But you realise how tenuous our hold on our civilization is.

“Everyone is in shock, even those who were not affected but maybe had to evacuate. They have gone through the ‘what if’ situation and the worry, which is very confronting.”

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