Bushfire Season

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Lester and I walked by the river last night, after the greater warmth of the day had passed. It was one of those days where the clouds were going crazy, multilayering themselves into shapes of dinosaurs and evil creepy things, of giants, and fairy lands. There were fluffy clouds, swirly clouds, streaked line clouds, and big clouds with a bit of water in them judging by their greyness, interspersed with smaller white fluffy ones which the sun was flirting around the edges with. It was a fine evening for cloud picture making, that's for sure.

I smoothed the bark of a ghost gum, in my hippy prayerdom, praying about today, another day of extreme temperatures (44C/111F) and wind gusts that foretell bushfires before the day is out. And I prayed, smoothing the multi-coloured bark, that as many of this tree's brethren as possible would still be standing by afternoon's end, when the cool change rolls in.

There is a certain level of anxiety on days like this, when everything is tinder dry. It is not something to get used to, even while living all my life in such conditions. I am reminded of Ash Wednesday 1983. I remember exactly where I was at the time when the ash from the worst bushies since 1939 came rolling into Melbourne. Mum and I were out in the waves at Mentone beach, enjoying the bounce. Dad was on the shore, waving. That was strange. Not given to bouts of expression, my father was standing on the shore waving at us.

To come in, that is. By the time we got home, the windows which had been left partially open had brought in with them a fine layer of ash from the fires that killed 71 people that day. The ash covered everything.

Me, I'm inside, insulated against the hot winds that will make me sick if I go out into them. I have barricaded myself inside the lounge room, with paper, pencils, paint and brushes. I have it easy today. I think of those fighting fires (the one that's broken its containment lines near the Bunyip State Forest) . I can't help thinking of the animals and the habitations that might be lost.

I am still not used to the way of this continent.


Update: at midnight, 14 people are dead and over 100 have lost their homes. I can't even think about the pets and livestock that have been lost.

Update: at midnight, 24 hours hence, and these bushfires are the worst in Australian history and there will be more than 100 people who have died. Not only that, but entire towns have gone or almost gone - Marysville, Narbethong, Kinglake. People died trying to escape from fires that rushed in within minutes, and that can be the only saving grace out of all of this, that their ends would have been swift. It's pretty devastating.

Melbourne trains being cancelled is disruption. This, however, is certainly chaos.


  1. I'm sorry for the toastiness...why don't you send about 30 degrees (F) thisaway? Then we'll both be good.

    How unusual is this heat for Melbourne?

  2. That would be perfect, wouldn't it, 30F your way? I guess we'll be seeing that soon - spring and autumn. Nicely balanced, everyone happy :)

    It is very unusual, this hot. Usually it gets to 40 on a few days over summer, but I have never seen it 43, 44, 45 like it has been. Luckily today was only one day of it.

  3. Not good, not good. Every single on of our family bar my brother is in a reasonably bushfire-prone area. Alex's sister - 15 minutes down the road - is even within a couple of kilometres of a fire at the moment.

    This stuff scares me to the core. Two years ago I had four separate family members in very close proximity to bushfires. My mother's small property had fire to the fenceline on three of the four sides. We don't need a repeat. God, please send rain.

  4. Heather - really? Wow, it's really scary. We need rain, definitely. Rain clouds, rain

    I see there is a bit of localised rain to the north of Kinglake and Healesville but nothing of any great consequence.

    Please, Papa.

  5. Hottest day in Melbourne ever - 46.

    Meanwhile Queensland is flooded.

    And a man in Belgium has decapitated his two children in the street.

    Don't send rain, Papa. Send yourself. Your world's fallin' apart!

  6. Papa help us all! You keep cool and safe, Sue, please.

  7. amen to what sue said
    don't send rain
    send yourself!

  8. There are a lot of people out here thinking about you all just now.

  9. Barb - I'm fine. Weather has resumed it's normal broadcasting today where I live.

    Kel - amen to what you said too

    Tess, it was the first thing I thought of when I woke this morning. It's sorta incomprehensible, really. I can't imagine how these people must be feeling


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