Susan Kempt (nee Dee)

I was 9 years old, at Wentworth Falls Primary School. Our house was on film, burning. Dad was a fireman. We lived on the highway at no. 224.

Three doors up from the hardware in Wentworth Falls, Wright’s garage and the cordial factory behind the garage burnt down. The factory belonged to Mr Carter, the Blue Mountains Cordial Factory. I’ve still got a bottle. Blaxland Rd burnt too.

It was a Saturday (?). We were taken to the lake with the Grammar School boys. We were told to lie down, put under blankets and hosed. I still hate the smell of smoke and wet wool! After the fires went through, we were taken to a friend’s house so we couldn’t see that our house had been burnt down.

The Lions club came and built sheds for people. There’s still one in my mother’s back yard. It was a room, with a sink, but no shower. We went to a friends’ place for a shower every day. I was very upset that my library book got burnt. We had chooks and ducks. The cat got burnt in the house. The dog escaped to the house in the back of the hardware. They grabbed him and kept him. While we weren’t there, a neighbour came and shot the chooks and ducks because they were so badly burnt. He saved us from seeing that.

There were looters afterwards. They sifted through my parents’ home. Someone found what they thought was dad’s wallet, but it was his hymn book. Mum has a few bits of bead and broken crockery, that’s all. Mum NEVER talks about it.

Dad died last year. His brigade came to save the house, but there was no water, so they had to watch the house burn. Dad had the other garage in Wentworth Falls. Wright’s garage came and used part of dad’s garage after the fires so that they could keep working. Rick Inman was an apprentice at the time at Wright’s. His son runs the Railway Garage now.

The fire started in the tip for sure. They tried to put the tip fire out, but it started up again and the wind was a howling gale. Check with the Katoomba Fire and Rescue records. That’ll show it.