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A War With Fire

Memories now in ash

Trekking the remnants of my old stomping ground

This article refers to the bushfires of 2019 and all that was lost. The images featured are of the aftermath of those fires.

Heroism comes in many forms and at times you least expect it. The summer of 2019 was something that no one could have predicted. Australia was on fire. Our wildlife became endangered, and many lost their homes. It was one place in particular that broke my heart to pieces when I discovered it had been obliterated by the raging fires.

Hiking in the Blue Mountains pre-Bush Fires

Growing up I’d spent many insane adventures exploring the wild Blue Mountains with my father. We’d trekked a fair few times to some glorious places and explored in others that were quite precarious. Even so, the mountains, forests, crisp air, and silent moments were memories that I look upon fondly.

Mt Hay at sunset, Sept 2019

When I heard that many of the places that we had frequented had been burnt to ash, I felt a huge gap develop in my chest. It was painful but being a documentary photographer, I knew that I had to play my role and document the destruction that preceded the fires.

A burnt pinecone sitting on top of ash, leaves, and soot

My father took me to a specific part of the Blue Mountains after the heroes of the SES (State Emergency Services), RFS (Rural Fire Service) and the Fire and Rescue Services had successfully put out the monstrous flames that threatened and destroyed homes and wildlife. I remember driving in silence as we took in our surroundings.

This forest stretched on for miles, all of it burnt

We slowly got out of the car and the stillness was incredibly eerie. Dead branches creaked in the wind, ash still falling from the sky. It was utterly apocalyptic. No birds, no sign of life anywhere. It was such a contrast from what we had grown to love over many years.

The remnants of light poles surrounded by debris

No, I hadn’t lived in the Blue Mountains growing up, but I had spent a substantial amount of time there with my family that it had become familiar like another home. I remember taking these photos and not being able to say a single word to my father. He filmed and I photographed both in complete silence.

More of the burnt forest

My father is a documentary filmmaker and I would frequently go with him to film and photograph and our adventures in the Blue Mountains were always in chase of something unexplained and mysterious. But this trip was entirely different.

Warning tape around a destroyed property

I wish I could say it was peaceful, but it wasn’t. Instead, we were met with a foreboding scene. It was especially impactful when we came across the remains of someone’s home and van that had been consumed by the fire. Only a broken shell of them both were left.

The burnt down home and van

Growing up in Greater Sydney meant that the Blue Mountains was a safe haven from the loud city. It was a place of solitude and where we went to reconnect with nature.

The foggy morning of the mountains, dead trees swaying in the wind

I remember a part of me always dreaded going home because it meant being exposed to crowds, traffic, and it always messed with my head. The smell of the mountains, the fresh and crisp air, replaced by truck fumes and smog.

Golden Staircase, 2019 pre bushfire

The Blue Mountains was accessible and would always be the one to capture us in its mystery and utter beauty. The fires destroyed all that. It left an air of anguish, anger, and questions.

Car rim found under ash

Where were the people who promised to protect us? Instead, we had volunteers and fire rescue doing what those in power had failed to do.

One of the many burnt trees still standing

They fought a war with fire that summer, but they had won. It wasn’t something that we celebrated, but something we acknowledged and mourned.

Bits of corrugated metal lay everywhere

We became grateful to those heroes whilst commemorating all that was lost. The bush is still recuperating to this day and it’s those moments that we find life amongst the dead trees that hope sparks once again and the feelings of my past return.

Home.

Thank you RFS and SES

australia
Michelle Kaldy
Michelle Kaldy
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Michelle Kaldy

I am a photographer and content creator, here to educate and take you on my post film school journey. With a BA in Film and Video Editing, I survive the big bad world with my wits and camera in hand. Straight Outta Film School!

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