By Jessica Anstice
On the afternoon of the Black Saturday fires, Tori and her husband Nick Arfaras, were holding their youngest daughter’s 12th birthday party at her home in Narre Warren North.
“Earlier in the morning, around 11am, there had been a fire in the Troups Creek Retarding Basin and we were getting updates on the fires through the television and radio,” Mrs Arfaras said.
“Nick was upstairs when he heard a crackling sound coming from the direction of the creek and then we noticed big ‘flakes’ floating into our backyard.
“Nick rushed down towards the creek where he noticed the fire was quickly spreading through the grass and trees along the creek’s bank.”
Mr Arfaras raised the alarm with a neighbour whose property adjoins the creek area.
“He then came back home where we quickly changed into appropriate footwear and clothing, grabbed whatever buckets we could find, and joined our neighbours in a ‘hose and bucket brigade’ at the end of our court,” Mrs Arfaras said.
“The CFA quickly turned up and took over and we also had one of the water bombing helicopters assisting.
“They told us that we needed to keep checking for flare ups overnight so we left buckets of water along the grassed area and got up every so often to do so.”
Mrs Arfaras said her family was very aware of the fires on the day.
“My parents had had to evacuate. I’ll never forget my mum being on the phone saying she could see the flames but that dad didn’t want to leave his horses and me saying ‘just get out’, and then the phone went dead,” she said.
“About an hour later I was able to get back in contact with her. Due to their location we had about two weeks of them being under threat.”
The aftermath was “quite emotional” for the Arfaras family.
“Due to having to evacuate during the Ash Wednesday fires I have quite a fear of fires,” Mrs Arfaras said.
“So between having them three houses away and the continuing uncertainty of my parents’ situation I was really shaken.
“There was also a real sense of guilt for feeling like this when there were families whose lives had been forever changed.”