Snow here, but fire rages back home |

Snow here, but fire rages back home

Edward Stoner Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Daniel Purcell PU 12-23-06

VAIL – Daniel Purcell’s skis are on Vail Mountain, but his thoughts are with Mount Buller.Wildfires are threatening his home mountain in Australia, and the flames have come within about a mile of his house.”They’ve never been so close,” he said. “They’re pretty sure Mount Buller will burn.”Purcell, 17, is in Vail for two months as part of the Vail Valley Exchange, which brings students from two counties in Australia that are considered Vail’s sister cities: Benalla Rural Shire and the Mansfield Shire. Mount Buller, one of the largest ski resorts in Australia, is in the latter.He’s staying with the Sackbauer family in Vail. This summer, Lucy Sackbauer, a student at Vail Mountain School, will go to Australia this summer with the program.Despite imminent risk, his family has, for now, decided to stay in their house. His mother has taken all of the valuables out of the home. She is watering down the house to lower the fire risk.

“She said the house is very eerie at the moment,” he said.His father works for the Department of Sustainability and Environment, which manages wildfires, and is working day and night fighting them.”I think they will be fine,” he said. “Some miracle will happen or something. Personally, it hasn’t sunk in.”He’s keeping in communication with his family, but said it’s difficult to even comprehend wildfire when it’s so wintry here.”It’s hard to imagine it when it’s so cold,” he said.

Working on the mountainPurcell is working at Two Elk Lodge on Vail Mountain as a busboy and is skiing every day when he’s not working. The big difference between Vail and Mount Buller is Vail’s powdery snow, he said.”In Buller, if we had this snow, we’d be jumping up and down,” he said.He said he’s always been intrigued by Vail, and would choose to study Vail for school projects.”I’ve always wanted to come here,” he said. “Then the opportunity came, and I said, ‘Sweet.'”He’s on his summer vacation now, and will start his final year of high school four days after he returns to Australia in January.

“I have to get my sleeping patterns back in four days,” he said.Purcell has been to Denver to see a play, went to check out Copper Mountain, and visited Vail Mountain School to see what an American classroom is like. He’s also planning to see a basketball game and a hockey game, he said.And he’s giving Lucy Sackbauer some tips on how to survive in Australia, he said.”I’m getting her used to the Aussie slang,” he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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