Blue Mountains (NSW) – Bushfire Hero Tucker

Remember the massive bushfires in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney In mid October? It made news all around the world.

news story

The media claimed it was the worst bushfires in the area in nearly fifty years. At one point it threatened to develop into a “mega-fire,” and sweep into outlying Sydney.

Thousands of “fireys” – Rural Fire Service volunteers and firefighters – swung into action, and it was because of their extraordinary efforts that there was no loss of life, and damage to homes and townships was kept to a minimum.

bushfires with cares fires ws2 Fires ws Firefighters Headlines

In the midst of this hellfire maelstrom, surrounded by bushfires on all sides, was the Monkey Creek Cafe. It sits on a ridge surrounded by valleys and bushland, and proudly states that it’s the highest cafe in the Blue Mountains.

It was also at the epicentre of the fires.

WS Monkey Ck Cafe

Because of its central location, it became the main hangout for hundreds of firefighters and their support crews. These guys were working unbelievable hours to try and save homes and lives. Some were working thirty-six, forty hours straight. They were exhausted. And they needed to be fed.

So too the dozens of tv news crews, press photographers and journalists who were covering the disaster. It was critical to have accurate information disseminated quickly, and the media played a vital role in the whole operation.

The owners of the Monkey Creek Cafe swung into action themselves.

Tony and Anne began feeding the firefighters and the media. They made them breakfasts, prepared cut lunches, cooked them dinners. Coffee was on tap constantly – and not just instant coffee; this was beautiful cafe lattes, cappuccinos, espressos. As good as any coffee you’d get in Rome.

Mandy

Over an intense five day period they must have made thousands of coffees, and prepared hundreds of meals. And they never charged a penny. Everything was free.

As Elle later said, these very brave men and women were working to save homes in the district – it was the least they could do to keep them fed and coffee-ed up.

What made the Monkey Creek Cafe such a safe haven was it’s construction. Built only two years earlier, it had been specifically designed to withstand bushfires.

Closer Cafe

It had rounded metal roofing, so no flying embers could take hold, and the whole site was surrounded by a perimeter of water sprinklers, fed by a huge water tank at the back.

They also had their own separate power supply, so if the grid went down, they could still pump water and keep functioning.

TankSprinkler

I stopped in with my wife Jennifer on our way to the airport. The owners were sitting at a table paying their bills. The whole bushfire episode – donating meals and coffee for hundreds of people for a week – had cost them a lot of money. But that didn’t bother them one bit.

Around table

I ordered a classic Monkey Creek breakfast – the kind that they’d dished out to all the firefighters and journos only a week earlier. The meal was hearty, well cooked, and very reasonably priced. It was yummy. And the coffee was great.

brekkie

Later I took a walk outside and looked out over the valley. It was desolate. The fires had laid waste to every leaf and tree for as far as I could see.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like, sitting in that cafe only a week earlier, watching those fires sweep through the valleys, this inferno heading towards you, out of control, your only defense a line of sprinklers and a round tin roof.

Out windows

The folks in the Monkey Creek Cafe didn’t cut and run – they stayed and they did their bit, keeping the fire crews and media well fed and caffeine-pumped.

When I spoke to Anne and her husband Tony, and their daughter Elle and a local helper Mandy, none of them saw themselves as heroes. It was the fireys were the heroes, they said with total humility.

Elle

I finished the meal and the coffee and headed back to the car to drive the rest of the way to the airport, and thought about all those people who “did their bit” but never got any coverage, any compensation, any recognition for their efforts. And never sought any either.

That’s what makes them true heroes.

Scrub in fg to cafe

9 thoughts on “Blue Mountains (NSW) – Bushfire Hero Tucker

  1. Hi Bill – Fabulous post.
    These guys certainly are true heroes, along with the fireys and all the other services involved in fighting the fires.
    This is the sort of story which should feature in our media – to keep those risking their lives firefighting fed and refreshed, along with all the others that did need to be there – and to accept no payment – a huge act of generosity.
    Their purpose-built cafe looks awesome – they were so smart to build as they did.
    Cheers – Jenny
    PS – your breakfast looks so delicious! I think it should receive the Inaugural “billsroadfood Award for Excellence!”

    1. haha – yes Jenny, the brekkie was very yummy, and the thing about it, they made it in about 2 minutes flat, no waiting – and the coffee was as good as an I’ve had anywhere. They were truly lovely people, and I agree with you, this is the kind of story that needs to get out there in the conventional media.

      I’m just pleased that with this blog, I can do stories like this…

      thank you for your comment – lovely to see you here!

      1. Cheers Bill – it’s fabulous to be a part of it!
        Buen Camino to you and to Jennifer –
        Jenny
        PS – the pilgs dinner the other night was a blast! Paul, one of the regulars, is just back from walking the Le Puy route and he told a completely hilarious story involving himself, five young French girls and a PINK UKELELE ! I won’t divulge any more details – he will tell you the story himself if you both can make it to the December lunch!

  2. Thanks, Bill, wonderful photos to go with the story. I watch what I eat and eat healthily, but I too would happily tuck into that meal, even if it meant having to go for a long bush walk afterward to make up for it!!

  3. Hi Bill, I just read your witty post about Nepali Khana. They are coming to our food festival in May, so your review has got me hungry!! If you consider Hunters Hill a schlepp, as many in the city do, then you might even come for a ride on the long strip of Victoria Road to review our big day out eh? Can only promise an abundance of food and wine, but won’t post details on your blog without permission…

    1. Hi Elizabeth – I’m currently in Galicia in Spain, just finishing the Camino Portuguese. Take a read of the blog – http://www.pgstheway.com

      Would love to come to your food festival. I’m back in the country 2nd week of May for two weeks before I head off to the US. So please let me know dates!

      thanks
      Bill

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