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The Fires in Australia

During our year in Australia we spent nearly three weeks -- glorious weeks -- exploring the state of Victoria.   We drove the Great Ocean Road, we visited Ballarat and spent several days in the lovely town of Healesville. (The picture is from a cottage we stayed at in the Yarra Valley, just outside of Healesville.)  The people we met there were kind and welcoming; the landscape was beautiful, at times breathtaking.

Watching the news for the past several days, seeing the devastation caused by the wildfires that are sweeping across that same landscape, we have grieved for those who have died and for all who have lost their homes.  We share the pain of so many who have had their lives destroyed as the fires have spread, and we despair at the great harm done to this magnificent part of a country we consider our second home.

To all in Victoria, and throughout Australia, you are in our thoughts and our hearts.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
Ditto. It is a tragic situation and our paryers go out to those caught in the fire or knows those who were.

To add to the tragedy, they say that some of the fires were intentionally set. It maeks you wonder how people can be so stupid. To expand upon another post of yours, David; if this was a fiction story, this event would have to make sense. It doesn't however, in the least.
Feb. 10th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Well said, Mark. The idea that someone could have started those fires boggles the mind. This situation is extreme, but Australia is always in danger of fast-moving, destructive fires. It's the nature of the place -- the oil rich trees, the arid climate, the density of the bush, the prevalence of winds. These bloody idiots should have known better.
Feb. 10th, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
I assume it's seen as a form of petty vandalism, like graffiti more noticeable. There's a suburb just over from me (in Launceston) where there's invariably smoke rushing from the bushland around the houses. Although my mother pointed out recently, they don't do it on high fire danger days. They're idiots but they're not stupid, if you know what I mean. I guess you get the occasional one who is stupid though. Sometimes they're caused by farmers burning off (clearing away old growth) or creating fire breaks, and the wind suddenly changes. Although I believe these ones usually come under control fairly quickly because the conditions weren't bad to start with.

It's aggravated because the eucalypts are actually encouraging fires, to remove competition so their next generation can grow. So they drop litter (bark, leaves) on the ground to encourage combustion and, as you said, the trees themselves are volatile which encourages fire to spread faster & jump fire breaks in a way that wouldn't happen among other species. And more often than not the gum trees survive the fire too. Most of the Victorian fire photos seem to be showing buildings & towns, so I can't see if the trees survived there, but usually you get black poles sticking up everywhere -- no leaves or branches -- then some weeks later green leafy poles and eventually the b/a/s/t/a/r/d/s/ trees return to normal. A lot of fire management, especially in & around the cities, involves burning off to remove the undergrowth & build up of litter from between trees.

It does seem to me that the situation has got worse in just the last decade. Used to be, come early summer, there were often comments in the news that conditions (wet spring, hot, dry summer) were pointing to a bad bushfire season. Now it seems a bad bushfire season is assumed as a matter of course, and it's just a matter of where and when, and how bad. Fortunately in Tasmania, they mostly seem to occur in the uninhabited areas, although last year, part of the east coast got hit badly. Whether Victoria is a indication of what the future holds or just a freak set of circumstances remains to be seen.

Feb. 11th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)
Thanks for the comments, Monissa. I remember when we were in the Red Centre, around Kings Canyon, and there were groves of ghost gums that had burned black, except for one or two random ones that were still as white as new snow. Bizarre. And also beautiful. Fire is, of course, part of the natural cycle in Australia -- as you say, the Eucalypts need it. But this is different and terribly difficult to watch, even from a great distance. My heart goes out to all of you there.
Feb. 10th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks, David. It's been tough and it's not over yet. I've had a couple of very up close and personal bushfire encounters myself -- eventually the bush does recover. But this time round, the levels of devastation are off the charts. And the loss of life is unprecedented. We're a sad place at the moment. As for the deliberate starting of fires, well, sometimes the person responsible is mentally unbalanced. We had a guy here in NSW arrested for firestarting this past week who begged the cops to keep him locked up because he knew he couldn't trust himself not to do it again. In its own way I find that as heartbreaking as the fires.
Feb. 11th, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)
You're more understanding than I would be, Karen. You're right, of course. It is sad, but the level of devastation -- possibly resulting from arson -- is just overwhelming. Best wishes to you and yours.
Feb. 11th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
OTOH, more fires were deliberately lit overnight. To which I say, string 'em up and toast some marshmallows while they're kicking.
Feb. 11th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
Feb. 11th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
Yes it is sad. I stayed at Marysville, which is completely wiped.. It was lovely. Of course the loss of the material is nothing compared to the loss of life. It is very distressing.
Feb. 11th, 2009 04:39 am (UTC)
It is. We're thinking of you all.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Australia, Ghost Gum
David B. Coe

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