common in Australia - all too common. The current situation in New South Wales is of disastrous proportions and likely to continue for some weeks.
It is just good fortune that, so far, my home state has not had similar fires in the hills behind our house. Yes, just good fortune.
The claim by the Greens MP Adam Bandt that there will be more of these fires if we do not go along with the Greens policy on global warming and what to do about it however is to be questioned. His statements smacked of political opportunism. The reality is that his party must take some of the blame for the present situation.
Why? There are several reasons for this but one major one is a belief among some people that the bushland environment should remain "natural".
People have moved into areas where houses simply should not have been built in the first place and then they have failed to keep the ground around them clear of the sort of natural debris that allows a fire to move through so extraordinarily rapidly. They have not kept their gutters clear. They have allowed trees like gums to overhang their houses. Gums burn readily, all too readily.
Add to that the failure to do controlled burning off to create fire breaks because some environmentalists oppose such things and you have a major problem. Fire breaks may not stop a fire from starting but they can help to do much to contain a fire that has started and they can make the job of fire fighters much easier.
People still want to live in high risk fire areas but they also expect to have the benefit of largely volunteer fire services when things go wrong. They expect to be able to keep their "natural" surroundings too and to do it without the need to clear gutters and grounds of debris.
Yes, I have said all that before and I will probably say it again somewhere else at some other time. Yesterday a stranger contacted me and said, "I have been told you have written a book for children about two children in a bushfire. I am just wondering if you could give me the name of it so I can order a copy."
I had to tell them, "I'm sorry. It hasn't been published." I gave them the name of another book (Colin Thiele's "February Dragon" as a substitute only to be told, "Isn't that the one where the horse dies?" Well yes, it is. Animals do die in bushfires and people die in them too.
I explained that the children in my book lose their parents and their sister. "Oh, I don't really want to scare her and she would be very upset about the horse in the other book."
We ended the conversation but it made me wonder whether perhaps that is one of the reasons why I have not succeeded in getting the book published? When Colin published February Dragon there were people who objected to the death of the horse but this is what happens in fires. And yes, children do lose their parents in similar situations - just as parents can lose children.
But have we come to a point where people don't clear debris from around their houses and publishers (and agents) believe that the theme is inappropriate for a children's book because people no longer want to face the consequences of their own actions or their own beliefs. Do we want to so protect children from such information that they won't know the consequences until it is too late?
Maybe the book I wrote is not good enough - although I still think it is - but is is also the topic?