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The trauma caused by bushfires lives on long after the flames have gone

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It was almost dark when we spotted her on the side of the road. A skinny young girl, blonde ponytail bobbing as she ran barefoot through the smouldering ashes.

My camerawoman Jess and I had been in the car for eight hours, driving through burnt-out towns, villages, farms and bushland. We were news gathering for the Today Show. But what the hell was this young girl doing? We were miles from anywhere, this was an exclusion zone, the entire area had been evacuated, night was setting in, and the bushland looked apocalyptic.

The sun is blocked by smoke rising from the Gospers Mountain bushfire.Credit:Getty Images

We skidded to an abrupt halt on the side of the road, a plume of dirt and ash billowing from behind our car. I wound down my window, "Are you OK, hon?" I asked. It was a stupid question upon reflection. She was clearly not OK. She was shoeless, sweaty, covered in ash, dirt and charcoal, with tears pooling in the hollows........

© WA Today