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The Cudlee Creek Fire

  • By Riposte Wines
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The Cudlee Creek Fire

The Cudlee Creek Adelaide Hills fire started near us. From the time of sighting the first relatively small plume of smoke until it engulfed our house was no more than two hours.

Riposte administration is run from a home office at Lenswood. The property has a view of the Mt Crawford Forest to the north‑east and is surrounded by vineyards and bushland elsewhere. We are in a high-risk area so we have had a detailed fire plan for over ten years, practicing our fire drill every spring.

As participants in Tarmac Rally and car racing events we own Nomex fireproof driving suits, balaclavas and shoes. We also had fireproof goggles and smoke masks. Not to mention 30,000 litres of bore water, plus two tanks of rainwater supplied to two fire hoses via a petrol pump.

We were joined by the Mt Crawford Forestry crew in an armoured fire truck and a team of highly trained fire-fighters who we cannot thank enough and were absolutely brilliant.

Their first question. “What is your policy?”, “Stay and defend” we said. They looked at us long and hard and made us repeat our answer, then said, “We leave, you leave, understand?”. Well of course we agreed. They then made us realise we still had a lot to learn. Warning us to shelter from radiant heat. “Do you think you will panic?”, “No” we said. “Take curtains down from your windows, shut doors.” Anything close to the house was thrown as far away as possible.

Ready as we could be, we waited for the fire to do exactly as the fire-fighters predicted, and crown over us. Apparently, we were hit with some the hottest radiant heat in this area. Our Mt Crawford Forestry Team, our own fire system, green lawns, garden and deciduous trees (yes they absorb radiant heat and also survive if not totally charred), as well as access to more than 60,0000 litres of water and a good fire plan saved us.

We were told “Get ready, it is coming now.” The photos taken were either prior to the event or well after. Otherwise the headlines may have been. ‘Elderly people killed while filming and not fighting the fire.’ It would be the ‘elderly’ that would have made us angry!

The garden was smashed with radiant heat, and – wait for it – 10 days later all the deciduous trees are sending out rapid new growth. Absolutely amazing. The lime tree (the most important tree in the garden – for G&T purposes!) was radiated to a crisp and again, down at the base, new shoots. Our house is still collecting fine black dust after three serious cleans, however we are grateful we still have a home to collect dirt as others have not been as fortunate.

Tim has seen it all before at Clare in the Mid North. Vineyards do recover but it will be a long road for many. Fortunately for Riposte all but two of our growers who supply us still have their vineyards – the ‘Wine Gods’ were looking after us.

The community has come together as one. Gratitude for friends, family and support is palpable.

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