'We'd fought fires before and won - in many ways it's a part of life, here in the bush, so you make sure you're prepared. But as I watched the cars melting, our ancient ash tree torn up by the roots and the air itself on fire, it occurred to me that we might lose this fight. It occurred to me that today I might die.'
Jane O'Connor and husband Sean moved to Kinglake, 65 kilometres northeast of Melbourne, 16 years ago. They were drawn by the lush native bush, the space to raise their beloved animals, and the close-knit community. On Saturday 7 February 2009, Jane and her family were sweltering through one of the hottest summer days on record, listening with concern to reports of fires sweeping through Kilmore and Wandong, 50 kilometres to their east and - according to the reports - heading south. But as the clouds of smoke loomed closer, and became tinged with a colour that from experience heralded danger, they realised that the fire was in fact heading towards them. But by then it was too late to evacuate; they were trapped as the firestorm swept towards them, obliterating everything in its ferocious path. Without Warning details the horrifying events of that day as Jane and her family fought for their lives in the face Australia's worst natural disaster. It details how they survived the day and the immediate aftermath, living in a landscape of death before emergency crews could reach them. Lucky to be alive, they then had to grapple with the grief and destruction of their community, and find a way to survive the even longer journey of recovery and rebuilding.
Jane O'Connor has been a journalist, editor and communications specialist for more than 30 years, working for news agencies and major media organisations. She has also held senior positions in communications and media management in both the public and private sectors. Jane is currently a magazine editor with Hardie Grant Magazines. She and husband Sean have lived in Kinglake for 16 years.