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Kinglake survivors recount lucky escape -

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Reporter: Natasha Johnson

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: As we go to air tonight, the official death toll from the Victorian
bushfires stands at 181, but authorities fear it may reach 300.

As the full enormity of Saturday's incredible disaster is still sinking in, a more accurate picture
is emerging of just how badly some communities have been devastated.

39 died in the hamlet of Kinglake and nearby Kinglake West, and tonight we talk with some of those
who survived but still don't know how they managed to escape.

We also look at the arguments for a fundamental rethink of the nation's fire management, and the
rules of fire safety.

Our first report comes from Natasha Johnson in Whittlesea.

KIM CRAVEN, KINGLAKE RESIDENT: I feel lost. I don't know what's happening or what the future is. I
don't know. I'm sorry. It's just that the not knowing all the time. I don't know. I have to - I
don't have a home for my children.

NATASHA JOHNSON, REPORTER: They're alive but deeply traumatised.

Last Saturday, Kinglake resident Ian Craven was stopped at a roadblock and watched in distress as
the mountains exploded in flames, knowing his wife Kim and sons Shannon and Josh were at home in
danger's way.

IAN CRAVEN, KINGLAKE RESIDENT: Watching all the houses burn. The wind was nearly knocking me over.
And I just knew that Kinglake, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek, everyone up that way was in big
trouble. There was nothing I could do. I just - I think myself as a man, but I cried. I cried
watching it. It was horrendous.

NATASHA JOHNSON: His family had no idea the fire was coming until the power went out and a friend
rang to tell them to leave. They embarked on a hazardous and terrifying drive through town.

KIM CRAVEN: There was just cars going in all directions, just everyone's panicking, there's no car,
there's no law where you should be, what side of the road you should be on, people running across
the road, just screaming and just - you just zigzagged and hoped no one would hit you.

And then my son was just screaming, "Mum, just drive, just drive! I don't want to burn alive! Just
drive!" And, I was screaming, "Drive where?" You know? "Drive where? We can't get off the
mountain."

NATASHA JOHNSON: Many died trying to flee in cars. But incredibly, Kim Craven and her two boys made
it to a friend's house. They'd fled with a baggage of belongings and their three dogs.

When the fire was at its most intense, Kim Craven felt sure they were going to die and made a
heart-wrenching call to her husband Ian.

KIM CRAVEN: And I thought I have to ring him. And he was trying to talk to me and I just said, "I
have to say goodbye."

IAN CRAVEN: If ever you got your heart ripped out, that's what it was like, when she said that. And
I just, I just broke down.

Then I get a message from Josh, always calls me "Pa". And he said, he said, "Pa, I love you, but
we're in trouble." And I've rung him, bawling my eyes out, and I said, "Don't ever, ever send me a
message like that again."

NATASHA JOHNSON: Kim Craven and her children survived the night, but they know many who did not.
Revered former newsreader Brian Naylor and wife Moree are among the 39 confirmed dead at Kinglake,
and Kinglake West. But with more than 500 homes destroyed in the area, that figure is expected to
rise. But why out of all of the blazes across Victoria was this one so deadly?

STEVE WARRINGTON, CFA STATE CO-ORDINATOR: Kinglake itself is a heavily timbered area. It's on the
outskirts of Melbourne. Large bush areas, bush environment, if you like. You have to understand
that before Saturday's fires, we had here in Victoria four or five days of 30 - high 30s, low 40
temperatures. So, it really dried the whole environment out right across the state. We then had on
that particular day forecasted - predicted an actual weather that is unprecedented, never seen in
the history of this state and in fact in this country.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Steve Warrington is the state coordinator of the country fire authority.

STEVE WARRINGTON: What we know is that you can't outrun a fire. It's just not possible to do that.
We've had a clear message now to the community for some time that, um, you know, "Don't evacuate,"
which effectively means don't be on the roads because radiant heat can and unfortunately will kill
people.

KIM CRAVEN: No warning, no idea it was coming, just - which I don't believe was anyone's fault. It
was just so ferocious, so quick, and just had no idea, had less - we had 20 minutes, less than
that.

NATASHA JOHNSON: The state's bushfire management will now be examined by a royal commission. Some
like the Cravens believe there's not enough backburning done in the forests.

KIM CRAVEN: All the locals have been saying for years it's a timber box waiting to go.

NATASHA JOHNSON: For residents, there are more immediate questions about the fate of loved ones and
friends, property and stock losses. Kim Craven and her sons left Kinglake in an emergency convoy on
Sunday morning and the family was finally reunited. They've been stayed with friends, but returned
to the Whittlesea relief centre today to catch up with neighbours and seek news on whether their
house is still standing. Many are still wondering.

Eventually, residents will be allowed to return to their towns, to salvage what they can and
rebuild their homes and try get on with their lives. But they'll remain haunted by this fire for a
long time to come.

IAN CRAVEN: I've lost a lot of friends, and I know I'm gonna be going past their places, and their
houses are gone, they're gone. I gotta get my head around all of that. But I wanna go back. I wanna
go back.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Natasha Johnson with that report.