Australia — Gavin Wigginton is still trying desperately to put the catastrophic events of Black Saturday behind him.
But it really is hard when his Callignee property still smoulders.
After a particularly hot day this month, the scorched ground began smoking again, almost 12 months after the February 7 fires roared through his 93-hectare native bushland home on the outskirts of Traralgon.
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) was called and doused the ground with water, but the smoke continued to rise eerily from the earth, accompanied by a sulphurous stench.
This week, a team of experts visited Mr Wigginton’s property and began excavating for the source.
They found a limited deposit of coal and peat in the ground, a remnant from the bushfires which stripped the lush property bare and made Mr Wigginton and his friend Andrew Kleinig fight for their lives.
The team went to the property on Thursday, capped the deposit and covered it with soil.
Mr Wigginton said he was happy with the way the CFA had responded and dealt with the problem.
With the first anniversary of February 7 fast approaching, this week’s drama revived painful memories.
“It’s very stressful really,” said Mr Wigginton, who is to have the concrete slab foundation of his new home poured next week.
“You’re just trying to put all this behind you, then to be visited by the CFA … it triggers memories.
“I’ve had nightmares. I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch.”
Mr Wigginton said he was not dreading the anniversary, he just wanted life to return to normal.
“I want to get my life back and I won’t do that until I’ve got a place to live,” he said.
Mr Wigginton and Mr Kleinig plan to spend the anniversary at their property and also visit some of their Red Hill Road neighbours.