In the summer of 1964-65, I was the only adult home in my street and alone with my 18 month toddler, I saw a plume of smoke rise from the bush by the Koonung Creek opposite, moving towards a neighbour’s fence. I popped Claire in her play pen and dashed over to it, realising as I ran how inappropriately I was dressed. Sandals. No hat. Sleeveless cotton mu-mu with its tight, ankle-length hem hobbling and threatening to trip me.
Feeling really scared, I thought as I ran, ‘If I go back now, by the time I’ve found proper clothes and changed into them the fence could be alight,’ and kept going. But even while running this ridiculous sack race for one, I devised my idea of a Personal Survival kit.
As soon as I got home again, the fire out, I rummaged through drawers for proper protective clothing: old pure wool pullover, strong cotton coverall, strong shoes, wide brimmed hat to which I sewed ties, garden hose connections and a few nappies for over my nose, put them in a bag and hung it in the tool shed next to the rake. I vowed I’d never be caught again.
This was the prototype of the more extensive one I devised for my book and which has since, like many of the ideas first concocted by me, been taken up and recommended by bushfire authorities.