Home. Every mother’s first priority is the safety of her children.
For Mawbanna family, the Hofings, mum Jane was faced with making the heartbreaking decision to depart from her six-year-old daughter Gracie when the threat of bushfire grew strong.
“Saturday I was stopped at a road block . . . the fire had gone from ‘Watch and Act’ to ‘Community Alert’,” she said on Monday.
“That was when I really started to worry. When I got home ash was falling everywhere. The police and firefighters came to my door and advised me to make the decision to stay or go, I chose to stay but as a mother, didn’t want Gracie to be here.”
She made the harrowing decision to remain at home and leave her daughter in the care of close friend Deb Burgess at Forest.
“That was most responsible thing I could do for her, I felt so much more at ease that she wasn’t here,” Jane said.
With the threat of bushfires knocking on their door daily since lightning ignited several fires across the state on January 14, the Hofings have done the best they could to protect their home and livelihood but get on with daily life.
“I’ve just been doing everyday farming business,” dad Chris said.
“Keeping an eye on things . . . It (fire threat) keeps you on edge a bit, it’s the unknown, you sort of have to sleep with one eye open.”
Having grown up and lived on the property since 1968, Chris says this is one of the most significant fires he has seen in that time.
“We have had two bad fires in the last three years, both times people had been evacuated.
“The 2013 fire probably came on a lot quicker, but this one is more forceful,” he said.
They own 950 acres at Mawbanna, including a small run-off block near Dip Falls.
“When the lightning struck, that was probably 15 or 20 kilometres away, but it has since come right to the boundary of the run-off block, it’s not far away now. [But] we have been pretty fortunate, no one has lost any fencing so far this year, maybe a couple acres of grass here and there but no boundary fence damage.”
Their bags packed ready to go, the family have been spending their days preparing the property as best as possible.
“We have access to plenty of water and watering systems, we’ve just been filling the gutters up to stop falling embers. You have to be really mindful around the house and hay bales and everything.
“Today has been the best day on location,” Chris said on Monday night.
“The last three or four days they didn’t know where the front was, it was too dangerous to pin point [but] today has been pretty clear of smoke so they’ve been able to monitor it better.”
Running 570 dairy cows on the farm, and with Jane and two of their children suffering from asthma, Chris said the smoke has “taken its toll” on them all.
“It’s knocked them (cattle) about a bit being in the constant smoke for the last four or five days, it’s hard enough for us . . . but the cattle are in it 24/7.”
Estimating the front to be about 2km from the farm boundary on Monday night, Chris said he and his family were thankful to Tasmania Fire Service and his brother Tom and Anthony Nichols – who are both in brigades – for keeping the family updated.
“All the local brigades have been coming and going all the time, [there’s] no lack of help.”
Jane said the support has been phenomenal. “We’ve been overwhelmed by texts and phone calls offering to help. It makes you realise what a wonderful place we live in, I feel very blessed. Chris and I are forever grateful for the support, you don’t realise how much people care.”