Resident and amateur photographer, Cabel Gribben took this photograph at Eagles Nest Road, Strathewen at 4.10pm during the Black Saturday, 7 February, 2009. Cabel, an 18 year old student, along with his family and friends, spent the day successfully defending his home from the fire.

Cabel offered this photograph for inclusion in the community-led Bushfire Photo Exhibition, which featured thirty-five local photographs, at the Bridges Restaurant/Nursery, Hurstbridge, held between February and March 2010. It was also published in the book 'Footsteps in the Ash' which documents St Andrews' and Strathewen's experiences during Black Saturday. This image is part of the the Victorian Bushfire Collection.

Description of Content

This was Cabel's first sighting of the immediate fire front, taken from the en-suite bathroom window in his house. The usual view would have been thick bush, and, in the distance and over the hills, Melbourne city. Instead a deep red-orange fire glow shows the trees, veranda posts and window frames in silhouette. Cabel took this image on Black Saturday while rushing to capture, what he thought could be his last moments of life. This is one of four images that he took with his camera before throwing it, his computer and camera equipment in an empty bath for protection against the firestorm. When he entered the en-suite bathroom he saw the flames through the window for the first time, noting that they had arrived so fast. 'I took a picture of myself and then three or four more out the window, before throwing the camera down and running outside to help with the firefighting. I later found out that my camera was still switched on. A testament to my priorities at the time' [interview, Cabel Gribben, 23 May 2011]. Cabel, along with his mother, father, neighbour, childhood friend, and girlfriend, stayed to successfully defend the Gribben house on Black Saturday. 'Regardless of the words I use, no one will understand that moment. I've been told that this image conveys, to some degree, the reality of what the victims of Black Saturday went through. I, personally, think this is nothing in comparison to what I experienced in the hour after this photo'. [interview, Cabel Gribben, 23 May 2011]

Physical Description

Digital photograph.


The bushfires of Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, caused significant loss of life and damage to personal and community property, and state infrastructure - and became the worst bushfire disaster in Australia's history. The Kilmore East fire swept over Mount Sugarloaf on Black Saturday destroying most of the small settlement of Strathewen and causing the largest loss of life of any community in Victoria. Despite the high death toll and widespread devastation, an astonishing number of creative projects have arisen to give comfort and help in the recovery efforts. This photograph is one of many that were used in a local photographic display and a publication which documented the many stories of loss and survival.

The image captures the direct and critical confrontation between the fire and local residents deciding to stay and defend their property, which is highlighted by the closeness of the fire, and uniquely, the presence of mind to document the experience as it happens. This image documents the fire's intensity, the many challenges and risks to residents in the line of fire, damage caused to land and property as well as the hazards facing communities when escaping or returning to their properties. It is an important and rare document of the photographer's personal experience as a local resident during Black Saturday.

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