evidence to the commission of enquiry #4 the warning

Back to: Surviving the Devil: A Song of Fire
Poem #32 from the ‘Surviving the Devil’ collection (unpublished)

I work as a spotter in the towers
over the summer months

my place is up on the ridge
about three k’s out of Marysville
from there on a clear day
I can see for miles

when the first plume rises
it’s my job to note coordinates
then get onto the airwaves
so the brigades can put it down

on that Saturday I saw the first smoke
over by Murrindindi Mill
then it was over the top
around the black range
traveling west

I was on the line
as fast as I could
because I could see
this thing would be big

but the radio did nothing
and the mobile phone wasn’t answered
by the third failed call I knew
some people were going to die

Marysville is down in a hollow
and I didn’t think it stood a chance
the smoke hit a thousand feet
and all the reply I got
was busy

I rang a friend
and told her to get out
because the fire bearing down
was a beastly size

I saw a spot-fire light up
while I was on the phone
fourteen kilometers ahead of the front
I saw it start to run
and then I felt terrified

the clouds went up another thousand feet
and ash and embers started falling
in a sort of hot black rain

the thing was alive
and I just shouted
good luck
down the phone

and ran

they’re saying that Marysville
had no warning
but it’s as true as I’m standing here
it wasn’t because I didn’t try

© Frank Prem, 2010

To Poem #33: evidence to the commission of enquiry: #5: left Flowerdale

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