Radio Free never takes money from corporate interests, which ensures our publications are in the interest of people, not profits. Radio Free provides free and open-source tools and resources for anyone to use to help better inform their communities. Learn more and get involved at

My wife and my children (ages 4 and 2) are citizens of Australia and the United States. We moved here a year ago, and up until fire season, it’s been perfect.

But on December 30, we jumped in the family car for a road trip and a long-awaited beach vacation. The website for Bega Valley advertised that it was unaffected by the fires, but thinking of those who were. That was still true until the last hour of our drive, when we noticed an enormous column of smoke rising over the mountains to our left.

By the time, we’d built sand castles and returned to Room 9 of the Pambula Colonial Motor Inn, the highway we had traveled was closed due to the Werri Berri fire. The other westbound highway was closed due to another new fire, called the Wyndham fire, only 20 kilometers away. And the multiple fires burning to our north and to our south, which had been raging for several weeks, meant that we couldn’t leave.