Residents prepared

When the Aberfeldy-Donnellys Creek fire threatened to hit Walhalla Thursday night, Walhalla residents remained calm and bunkered together to defend their town.

Six Country Fire Authority strike teams were in the town when it was threatened and those who had come from fighting fires replenished their tired bodies at the cafe in town.

Walhalla resident Rae Ann Vincent, who had stayed up all night serving coffees and food to fire crews at GreyHorse Cafe, said everyone in the town had stayed “cool and calm”, despite the evidence of the fire being close enough to see.

“We could see the smoke and we could see the colour of the fire reflecting in the smoke as it rolled through,” Ms Vincent said.

“We’ve got our fire plan down pat and it all just clicked into place.”

“We removed all campers from town… asking everybody please just pack up and leave now when they can, just in case…and they left in a respectable manner.”

She said they were not told to evacuate, but to watch and wait and be vigilant, adding it was “gratefully, not a major event here”.

She said some families with children decided not to take the chance and left Thursday night, including those who lived at her own residence in Maiden Town, just out of Walhalla, to the east.

“I did get a bit emotional when I had to pack my car at Maiden Town… the realisation that ‘hey, I might lose everything’, but I had to snap out of it,” Ms Vincent said.

“You’ve got to be strong and have faith in it, that everything will be alright, and it was.”

She said on Friday the town was on alert for the unlikely event the fire threat would return, including possible lightning strikes.

“Our town plan is to put buckets out on every house with mops in them with a bit of water… and we have piles of buckets there ready to go if we need them,” she said.

“The Erica rural fire brigade are in the Erica control centre opposite the DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment)… and if anything untoward happens they’ll phone straight through.”