Out of the Ashes: A bit of luck, a lot of work

TODAY the Mail-Times begins a series outlining some personal stories of Grampians bushfire survivors.

Out of the Ashes looks at the people who suffered during the fires, which began on January 15 and razed homes, properties and thousands of hectares of park and private land.

To date, more than 55,000 hectares have been burnt and crews are still working in the area.

We start the series with the story of Roses Gap residents Jean and Tony Swan.

Mail-Times journalist EMMA D’AGOSTINO visited the Swans at their property this week.

BEFORE every summer, the Country Fire Authority warns people to ensure their properties are fire-ready.

Roses Gap residents Jean and Tony Swan don’t wait for the warning.

“We do fire-ready work all year, it’s constant,” Mrs Swan said.

Their semi-cylindrical RAL Home is set atop a bed of gravel.

Vegetation within the immediate vicinity of the house is sparse.

All year, the Swans cleared the property of as much fire fuel as possible.

They were as prepared as they could be.

But ask Mrs Swan what spared her beloved home, and she’ll tell you it was luck.

“I think someone was looking down on us,” she said.

The fire burnt her rose garden.

It melted a protective cover on one of the family’s cars.

Embers hit the vegie garden, burning holes in the protective shade and scarring the surrounding ground.

Mrs Swan has picked some crispy silverbeet since the fires.

But the property was largely untouched.

The burnt-out remains of her neighbour’s home are metres away.

“I feel guilty,” Mrs Swan said.

“The people next door have lost everything.”

“I feel guilty. The people next door have lost everything.” - Roses Gap resident Jean Swan

The Swans bought property at Roses Gap in 1972, preceded only by Neale Bavington.

“We started with a tent here, then we got a caravan,” Mrs Swan said.

The couple made the move permanent once they retired.

For years, they had holidayed in the area.

“Our kids grew up with this,” Mrs Swan said.

Roses Gap has become ingrained in her family.

“It’s home,” she said.

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