A Mother’s Tale of the Clarence / Dargan Fires

A Mother’s Tale of the Clarence / Dargan Fires

In December 2019 the Gospers Mountain megafire tore through the town of Clarence. There was not a leaf left unburnt in the town. All homes were saved but no bushland or greenery survived. Almost all arboreal animals were decimated by the crown fire. It was assumed the only wildlife to survive were the kangaroos and wallabies that had managed to escape to safety. Most of these surviving animals had burnt feet and tails.

On Boxing Day 2019, a call came through to WIRES rescue office of a burnt possum in Clarence. The possum had been 20 feet up a tree for a few days and had been presumed dead as it had not moved. On Boxing Day the possum dragged itself down the tree and went and sat at the front door of a residence of Clarence. WIRES members Tracy Burgess and Kylie Camilleri attended to rescue the animal. It was an adult female brushtail with severe burns to all four feet, both ears and her face.


Tracy Burgess took her to Nepean Animal Hospital for assessment and treatment. While waiting to see the vet, Tracy noticed there was movement in the abdomen area. A check identified a pinkie in the pouch. The fierce mother was not only likely the last possum standing in Clarence, she had fought and sustained herself and eventually reached out for help with a baby in her pouch.

She spent two days at Nepean Animal Hospital and was then released into the care of Tracy Burgess. Tracy would get up at 5am each day with the following routine

5am:       Clean wounds and apply burn cream and vet wrap

5:30am: Hand feed as possum was unable to eat unaided

12pm:     Remove vet wrap, clean wounds and hand feed

5pm:      Clean wounds and apply burn cream and vet wrap

5:30pm: Hand feed

10pm:     Remove vet wrap, clean wounds and hand feed

This routine lasted for three weeks. A reassessment by Nepean Animal Hospital determined the burns were too deep and unfortunately she had to be euthanised. However, her valiant effort in a monstrous fire that killed almost everything else should be recognised.

Tracy Burgess