10 February, 2009


I suppose I should have something to say about the bushfires that have been burning across Victoria since Saturday. But what can you say? What can even begin to describe the devastation? These are the worst ever. 71 people died in the Black Friday fires of 1939 and 75 people were killed by the Ash Wednesday fires (which really were on Ash Wednesday) on 1983. So far, 173 people have lost their lives and that number increases by the hour. It will take weeks to identify them all, by dental and medical records, or perhaps by jewellery.

The death toll doesn't tell the whole story of the magnitude of the fires. When you factor in the advances in firefighting technology, it's even worse. They didn't have water-bombers in 1939.

We should be clear about one thing: fire is part of the natural cycle of the bush. The seed of the Banksia can't open without a fire - that's why it's surrounded by kindling. It's not that all fire is bad, just this kind. And this time around, it looks like it's not for want of proper forest management and fuel reduction.

It's looking like some of the fires were deliberately lit, and others were possibly caused by lightning strikes or overloaded power lines. I guess the latter is something they did have much of in 1939 either.

There is excellent coverage at the ABC and threat updates at the CFA.
Donations can be made to the Red Cross.
Please donate only to well-known, reputable agencies.

By the way, I am deliberately vague about my exact location. The Gippsland region, by its broadest definition, stretches all the way from south-east Melbourne to the pointy bit in the far east of the state. I'm not near any of the danger areas, so please don't worry. There are others who need your concern far more.

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