Her brother had smiled and assured her that the weather forecast was good and the front wouldn’t come this way, and anyway Mrs Johnstone would be here soon to take her to town.
He was wrong!
First Claire sensed it and then she could see it. Out past the pine windbreak, a deep red menacing glow. The first pine went up with a whoosh that Claire could hear from where she stood.
She ran to the other side of the old farmhouse and froze. As far as she could see was ablaze! The farm was surrounded by the two wildfire fronts! No way Mrs Johnstone would get through. She’s by herself!
Claire's mind began to rush. What to do? Where to go? She shielded her eyes from the growing cloud of ash and smoke and remembered her dad’s words about the ‘Priest’s Hole’. A funny name she had first thought until her dad had told her that in the Middle Ages in England, priests built hidey-holes in the vaults of monasteries. A sanctuary if the monastery was ever threatened.
Being the local CFS commander Harry had been obsessed with fire prevention and had constructed an under-ground, concrete bunker -‘Priest’s Hole’- when he had put in the new water tank last autumn. It was the size of a very small room and Harry had put in a metal box containing survival gear; breathing masks, batteries for the radio, a supply of water, tinned food, blankets and a medical kit. He’d also placed another smaller tin in which he’d put pictures of the family and copies of important documents. The family had practised a drill of what to do and Claire was aware that she had no time to waste and had to reach the “Priest’s Hole’ before the fire engulfed her.
Her mind was racing. The noise was becoming a roar and the acrid smell of smoke had begun to make her cough in uncontrollable fits. But first Claire had something important to do.
There were three special items she must get out of the house and she had no time to lose. As she ran to the back veranda she noticed that the feed shed was alight. No time to watch, or think.