Steve Harrison, 67, lives in the town of Balmoral, near Sydney in New South Wales. Harrison is a potter, and his pottery skills quite literally saved his life. That’s because just a few days ago he built his own kiln, which would later protect him from the deadly wildfires that are currently ravaging Australia.
As the fires closed in on his home, Harrison went to retrieve whatever he could. However, he realized, once it was too late, that he couldn’t safely evacuate.
“I ran to my [pickup truck] but my [yard] was already on fire, the driveway was on fire, the road was on fire so I couldn’t evacuate,” he said.
Fortunately, his salvation came in the kiln he had made just hours before the fire.
“The day before I had actually built myself a small kiln down the back — a coffin-sized kiln — just big enough for me to crawl inside,” he said.
Harrison would spend the next hour inside the object that came perilously close to being his actual coffin. As the flames raged around him, Harrison says he was terrified. Fortunately, he had a fire blanket, a fire extinguisher, and a bottle of water with him — a Plan B, he calls it, that saved his life.
Though he survived, Harrison doesn’t have a home to return to. Indeed, the entire town of Balmoral, which at one time housed about 400 people in about 150 properties, is now burned to the ground.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed that Balmoral is all but gone.
“We’ve got the devastating news there’s not much left in the town of Balmoral… It could take years to rebuild,” she said.
Meanwhile, it seems that some in Balmoral are accusing firefighters of not doing enough to save the town. In an emotional statement, a firefighter identified only as “Greg” fought back against those claims.
“The suggestion that we failed in defending that village… I don’t know how the other guys will take that, but for me personally — I’m quite offended at the suggestion that we lost that village because we didn’t. I had mates hospitalized,” he said.
A brief change in the weather is expected to give firefighters a much-needed upper hand in containing and dousing the fires. However, they’ll have to work quickly, as searing-hot temperatures are expected to return in a few days.