Streets of ash and twisted tin

THE once bush-flanked road is now burnt trunks and shrivelled leaves crackle in the breeze.

Power lines, like silver chains, are draped across burnt trees and haphazardly line the highway.

Lone brick chimneys eerily peer from the landscape, next to piles of tin and ash.

I scan it all, hoping to see scans of life.

I've been following the Facebook page Reunite Pets Missing in Tassie Bushfires, relieved when pets are found.

It's hard to imagine anything surviving this.

One resident who lost her home in the bushfire said birds were dropping from the sky.

Another said wallabies and possums emerged from the bush, running scared and exhausted as others already lay dead, strewn in the paddocks after escaping the inferno.

One man said he found his hunting dogs dead in their pens.

Miraculously, one came trotting back through the smouldering bush to its owner on their return.

Glenda McIntyre, whose Dunalley home was saved by her son, told me before I got to Dunalley that it felt like she was living in a war zone.

Stress and the burnt air have caused her to lose her voice. Her asthma is playing up.

"People are saying that they've seen it on TV, but they don't know what it is really like," Ms McIntyre said. "You have to see it."

She is right.

I am travelling down the familiar winding road of the Tasman Peninsula to see how my home away from home, the shack, has fared.

Homes lay destroyed as we drive along the highway.

These now create scenes of crumpled tin, charred bricks and mounds of blackened debris.

There's one - and another, and another, and another.

We voice our thoughts:

"Look, Bob's place survived!"

"They just finished renovating. It's gone. It was beautiful."

"Absolutely nothing left."

It is as if the fate of these homes rested on selective judgment - "keep that one, and that one, no, not that one".

"You feel guilty," Ms McIntyre said.

"I'm happy I've got my house but I feel guilty too. It is a funny feeling."

The town, despite the devastation, is not ghostly.

It is temporarily heartbroken.

Some of its residents may leave but people are still here.

The Dunalley Hotel car park is full, swathed in the afternoon sunlight.

A helicopter sits on its front lawn and the recovery centre is set up with white marquees and boxes of supplies.

Then, there is the kindness and generosity of publican Bill Kidd, or Billy the Kid.

He has put up residents, who have slept on the hotel's lawns and dining room floors, since the Friday night after the fire swept through.

There are unwavering words of affection about him.

Then there is the robust attitude seen in Murdunna, where a father and son stand outside the shell of their shack, drinking a few cold beers.

"I've had this shack since 1954, my father and I built it," David "Sam" Chaffey said.

"He would turn in his grave if he knew it was gone. But anyway, we are all right, the family is right, the dog is right, everyone is OK."

I tell him that my family shack is further up the road and that if he needs any help, we can surely lend a hand.

And like everybody else who I've spoken with today, he asks about our Sommers Bay property.

Thankfully, it's still standing.

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