Write about an event or experience that you remember like it was yesterday.

The summer I turned 21 was both the worst and most memorable of my life. It was a very dry summer. The drought season brought with it a terrible bushfire which burned through Queensland and North New South Wales. We had heard stories about previous bushfires, but my generation had never seen anything like it. The speed and ferocity of the fire was the worst it had been in decades.

My mother was afraid of the fire. It was slowly approaching Canberra, the city where we lived. When there had been a bushfire in 2001, she also lived in Canberra. She told me that the sky was black with smoke, and it was difficult to breath. She had two young children, and my father was away on business. So, she packed our bags and prepared to evacuate. She hosed down the house with water although it would have offered little protection from the inferno. It was all she could do. While our house was spared, many of our friends lost their family homes, belongings, everything. So, when a similar fire approached in 2020, she became very worried. She had to go away during the summer holiday to visit her parents, but she didn’t want to leave us. However, I was already an adult so I said I would look after my siblings and reassured her.

My mother left in early December and my two siblings, and I stayed in the family home. We were very close, so we had a great time - cooking, shopping and enjoying our holiday together. However, one night we woke up at night to the unmistakable smell of smoke. I jumped up out of bed, terrified that perhaps we had left the stove on. But the smell was everywhere. We switched on the lights and realized that the smoke was coming from outside. Outside, the air was a dark grey color. The smell was incredibly strong, and it was difficult to breathe. We struggled to fall asleep that night.

In the morning we realized how bad the situation was. The air was dark orange, like a perpetual sunset. We couldn’t see the sun at all. It was always slightly dark, day or night. We wet bath towels and tried to seal the cracks under doors and used humidifiers and fans to get rid of the smell. Many elderly people and children struggled to breathe and filtered masks used in factories and hospitals quickly sold out everywhere. Walking around outside in the dark orange sunlight was strange and disturbing. It felt like the end of the world.

My best friend lived in the suburb of Condor, on the edge of Canberra. One night the citizens of Condor were ordered to evacuate. I went to her house, and we packed up her clothes and belongings quietly. Together we stood on the veranda barefoot (the fire also made the air unbearably hot and dry) and looked out towards the horizon. We could see the fire climbing over the mountain and burning brighter and larger every minute. It was only about 20 kilometers away from her house.

The fire did not end up reaching Canberra. The brave volunteer firefighters were able to prevent the fire from damaging any property. Although it was a very difficult and emotional summer, I also remember how strong and giving our community was during that summer. Many people opened their homes to strangers who were evacuated, and large amounts of money were donated to people in NSW and Queensland who lost their homes. It was such a strange and unique experience that I still remember that summer as if it was yesterday.


drought (noun) – a long period of time when there is little or no rain
ferocity (noun) – extreme force, violence or intensity; aggressive behaviour
inferno (noun) – a very large dangerous fire that is out of control
spare (verb) – to allow somebody/something to escape harm, damage or death, especially when others do not escape it
reassure (verb) – to say or do something that makes somebody less frightened or worried
perpetual (adjective) – continuing for a long period of time without stopping or being interrupted