Sunday, 4 January 2015

This post is especially for Upoverites

who have been concerned about the safety of myself and the Senior Cat due to the bushfires here Downunder.
Let me say hastily that we are fine. We are safe. We live in suburbia and, so far, there have been no fires in the hills immediately behind us. That would pose a risk to us and many thousands of other people. We have been fortunate that there has not been a fire in the Brownhill Creek Conservation Park or in among the gullies leading up into the suburbs built in among the bush that covers the hills.
It is, of course, madness to build in these places.
The current fire is in a place started in a place called Sampson Flat. It is to the north of the city - about 26km from here. It is what Upoverites would probably consider to be a very remote area but it is, by Downunder standards, a moderately populated area. There are many small "towns" (villages) like Kersbrook, Lyndoch and Gumeracha and many individual houses on small vineyards, hobby farms, some market gardens, a lavender farm and other such activities. These individual houses can be some kilometres from their neighbours.
There is another conservation park in the area and that, along with other high fuel loads on individual properties, is what is burning. Natural Australian "bush" tends to be very fire prone. There are a number of reasons for this, one of them is the eucalypts.
Yesterday the authorities evacuated 21 towns. That sounds like a lot and it is but they are small villages by Upover standards. It was done because the fire was and, as I write this, still is out of control. People are not yet allowed to return home. At this time they do not know how many houses have been lost.
My job yesterday was, along with a team of other people, to see that people with disabilities who might need extra assistance were informed of the situation. Late in the day we knew that everyone on the list was accounted for and safe. It was good news.
We have a problem however. It is simply this. We build houses where houses should not be built. People have romantic ideas about living "in the bush". They have romantic but extremely dangerous ideas about "leaving the bush in its natural state". They don't understand - or perhaps want to understand - that this is not safe. Fires can be started by human error, human mischief or nature but they are made much worse by failing to clear the land around dwellings, by failing to clear the undergrowth which causes fires to travel so rapidly, by failing to have fire plans in place and means to fight fires. The means to fight a fire may not stop it but it can slow a fire sufficiently to bring it under control more quickly.
One man who had lost his home was interviewed. In true Downunder style he, while visibly upset, shrugged and said he would rebuild in the same location. He "liked the solitude". Yes, no doubt he does but his former home was surrounded by a frightening fuel load. The problem is that it is simply not safe to live like that.
We live in suburbia. The conservation park  begins about two kilometres away, so do the gullies leading up into the hills. I would like to think we are safe but I don't doubt other people believed they were too. 

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