Saturday, 9 January 2016

There have been 95 houses lost

in one town in the current spate of fires in the west of Downunder. The fire was started by a lightning strike. 
It has cut roads and a rail link. A bridge has gone. One community on a small peninsula is cut off completely. They had to airlift emergency supplies into them yesterday. 
People who sought shelter in a neighbouring community have been moved on again - because it is no longer safe there. More than one "watch and act" emergency warning is in place. 
If you have never been anywhere near a fire like this then it is impossible to understand what they are like. Fires this big, fires that can be seen from satellite imagery, are not something you can fight or even defend with a garden hose. Even the most sophisticated sprinkler systems with independent power units are not going to be effective against a wall of flame higher than houses moving at speed and in an unpredictable fashion. The heat alone can you long before the flames reach you. (It is possible for the centre of a big fire to be around 3000'C.)
Fires don't stop burning once the flames have passed either. They can burn for weeks. They have to be monitored for "flare ups" and, although they may appear out, they can still be burning beneath the surface as well as smouldering on top. 
There are other dangers too - from  things like falling tree branches and even trees themselves. Power lines will be down and every part of those lines has to be checked and restored. 
And a different sort of power has to be generated too. It could be simply put as "people power" but perhaps it is something more than that - the instinct for survival.
I am sitting here safely in suburbia, more than a thousand kilometres away from the fire which destroyed those 95 houses. I don't really understand what those people are going through. They can try to tell me but only they can feel the pain of their losses. 
If someone here Downunder is reading this though I have one thing to ask of you. If you have been where those fires now are, if you have photographs taken of people there or of some event you attended...make copies and pass them on to those concerned in the coming months. It helps to remember the good times.

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