Do what’s right

April O’Reilly, Korinderie Ridge

After the fire had burned through, I went for a bushwalk with my dad to check up on everything. There was a bunch of RFS down there. I stepped on some ashy ground, and there was a burning root underneath, and my foot fell through the ground and the coals went into my boot. I got second-degree burns around my ankle and third-degree burns on the top of my foot. 

It was pretty scary. I didn’t really have accessibility to a hospital from here. We didn’t think it was as bad as it was at first. I just was keeping water on it. Then we ended up going into the doctor and ended up at the hospital. It’s taken two years of checkups at the hospital and wearing compression bandages, and doing physical therapy on my foot, and using treatment creams. Just in the last year, I’ve been trying to focus on helping my scar be less pronounced and make sure that it doesn’t stop my foot from being mobile. 

I feel like I’ve only just completely recovered.

April O’Reilly. Photo: Ben Belle
Ash hole created by burnt underground stump. Photo: Anastasia Guise

It makes me think about the future and how scary it is if we don’t do what’s right. 

For the first four months, I had to go into the hospital twice a week for checkups and so that they could re-dress my foot. They had to do skin peels on it so that everything was not infected. I spent quite a lot of time in hospital, and I did checkups after that twice a month. I nearly got surgery. At one point I nearly got a skin graft, but they decided it was too small of a surface. I did feel very grateful that I wasn’t as badly hurt as a lot of the kids that were in there.

Probably the scariest time during the fires was when I was evacuated. I could see everything going on down here. I was on a big hill, I could see the smoke, embers and flames, it was just blackening the sky. I didn’t know what was going on. I knew that my dad was here, and my house was here. I was scared that I would come back and everything would be gone. I wouldn’t have anything, maybe my dad would have been injured or even passed away.

I feel like everybody who was in this area was affected in their own way, even if they didn’t lose their houses. It really affected people’s mental health. Everybody was so worried about everybody else and making sure that everyone was okay. 

It was really scary to watch other people go through terrible things, and you couldn’t help them. 

There was a little girl that I knew who lost her house and all of her pets and it was quite a traumatising experience for her. They’ve been living in cars and caravans and things which has been really horrible. I’ve always wanted to help that family out because it would have been a really, really hard thing to go through. They lost everything. 

I think that everybody handled the fires in a different way. I was quite lucky that my house and all my family were okay. It was really scary to see a lot of my friends and people I know who lost their houses and even lost family members. It makes me think that anything can happen. You have to make sure that you don’t take things for granted. It makes me think about climate change and how important it is that we take action, otherwise it’s gonna get so much worse! And it’s going to be just an ongoing thing that happens all the time.