Fire victim shares traumatic story

Cressy's Joyce Horne lost her home in a grass fire in 1977.

CRESSY’S Joyce Horne can still remember the morning of February 12, 1977, when she lost her home in a grass fire.

This week is Fire Action Week in Victoria and Mrs Horne has relived the trauma from her past in a bid to encourage Colac and district residents to prepare for the summer fire season.

Mrs Horne lost her home but escaped with her life. Others were not so lucky.

“It was very hot but very dull; it wasn’t at all sunny and very windy,” Mrs Horne said.

After watching her daughter’s tennis match at Rokewood with her husband, Ray, Mrs Horne said “it was very windy” when they returned home.

The Cressy resident said they heard a fire had started, and Ray went to help.

“I shut myself up in the house with my husband’s uncle and youngest daughter,” Mrs Horne said.

Mrs Horne said she was unaware fire was approaching the farmhouse.

“My husband arrived back and said ‘get out’; we hadn’t noticed the fire had come,” she said.

“He was a very calm person, never panicked.

“He just said ‘hurry up and get out, get yourselves down to the river’.”

The family gathered as many possessions as they could and waited the fire out at the Woady Yallock River.

“I’m sorry to this day I missed grabbing some things,” Mrs Horne said.

Mrs Horne said her daughter Robyn had the presence of mind to take important items.

“She was only 13 but she got her school uniform, and her sporting gear; she did better than I did, the only thing she didn’t grab was knickers,” she said.

Mrs Horne said she stayed at the river with her family until the fire front engulfed her house. “We walked up in time to see the roof collapse,” she said.

“It was the most strangest sight when the roof collapsed; the chimneys rode up through the roof.”

The ‘Cressy fires’ started in Wallinduc, spreading south and east through Werneth and then Cressy.

Three people died in the fire, which burnt 39,200 hectares of land.

The fire destroyed 10 homes in Cressy as well as a garage, fuel depot and two halls.

Mrs Horne remembers the fire damage was sporadic.

“It was only in patches, it was strange,” she said.

Mrs Horne and her family stayed with friends until they borrowed a caravan to live in while their new home was built.

Mrs Horne said if she was faced by another high fire danger day, she’d get out of Cressy.

“I think today at my age I would not stay here; if it was a bad day I’d get out and go into Colac,” she said.

“I was younger then l felt I could cope with things; I don’t think I could cope today.”

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