Monday, February 09, 2009

Bushfire History

To the right is the view from my windows across the valleys and hills of bush.
I love the view but it can be threatening.
I live on the southern side of the ridge and most fires come with hot winds from the north west. I have done some research.

Australia's previous worst fires were in 1983, when blazes killed 75 people and razed more than 3,000 homes in Victoria and South Australia states during "Ash Wednesday."
Seventy-one died and 650 buildings were destroyed in 1939's "Black Friday" fires in Victoria and 13 died in NSW on the same day.
Other fires with major loss of life were:
60 in Victoria in 1926,
20 in Victoria in 1942,
51 in Victoria in 1943,
10 in Victoria in 1952,
4 in NSW (Blue Mountains) in 1957,
33 in Victoria in 1962,
62 in Tasmania in 1967,
14 in NSW (mainly the Blue Mountains) in 1968,
23 in Victoria in 1969,
5 in NSW in 1979,
5 in Victoria in 1985,
4 in Canberra in 2003,
9 in South Australia in 2005

So you can see, although I live in a highly bushfire prone area, the great tragedies have been in the Southern states.

My house was built about 1975 and the fire passed over it in December 1977 when 79 buildings were destroyed and 3 were killed.
I bought the house in January 1982 and had my first experience in November that year when we were told to prepare for fire. However the fire was contained to the north of the mountain villages.
A similar event occurred in January 1994 and I joined neighbours in preparing our homes but again it stayed to the north and we watched it move along the ridge. Sadly it did impact and destroy homes further east.

The big one for me was in January 2002.
On Christmas Eve, I had to detour to avoid fire as I drove down the Mountains to the home of my mother and sister. Christmas day was terribly hot and we learnt that there had been large fires in the lower mountains with many buildings lost. On Boxing Day, I took my mother to my place and passed the fires in the lower mountains and again some homes were lost. I thought we were safe. However the following day (December 27), I received notice that a fire had been started by lightning to the south-west and I was to expect it to impact on my home in a few days.

My sister and brother-in-law drove up to take my mother back along with some of my most portable valuables. I spent the next week madly clearing the land around my house and watching the smoke approach from the south and had a clear view of helicopters firebombing. By the evening of January 3, fire could clearly be seen leaping up on the next ridge and many people had evacuated.
At 5am on January 4, fire was coming up the slope to my house and I prepared for the worst. It had been on January 4, 20 years earlier that I had first moved into my house.

Then fire engines arrived in all our driveways. The fire fighters are looking at the approaching fire on the right.
I was told to put my little hose away and I actually took photos. After a few hours my garden looked the worst for wear but with blackened bush all around, I could finally get some rest. It rained the next day.

I took a photo of a helicopter water bombing over my backyard.

As I get older I really do not want to go through that again. I was lucky in that I had plenty of time to prepare although that was not good for the nerves. People this weekend seemed to have literally minutes as the fire rushed down upon them, for many too late.

I have just had the following email from my sister which brought so much back.

I can't seem to take it all in - reading the paper this morning I couldn't help crying (what have I got to cry about - nothing). I still remember the morning I was talking to you and you suddenly said "I've got to go" and then we had to wait to hear what happened. How thankful we were to all those fire fighters. Dear Lord I hope all those who died went quickly - everyone is so brave.

I remember ringing her at 5 in the morning and saying "It is coming, please pray"

(Bushfire latest

Death toll from Victorian bushfires rises to 209)


Fran said...

Oh my Lord- what a post, I am speechless. I am adding this to my fire post.

God help Australia - God help each and every person touched by these fires.

Cynthia Pittmann said...

Thank you for your post on the difficult time you all are having over there. Your compassion and concern are is your intellect. I´m glad I stopped over here from Puerto Rico, where I wish I could send you some of our rain.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Prayers for you all!

Davis said...

Thanks, Brian, for keeping us up to date with this sad sad story. All of Australia is in our prayers.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Brian. Please know that you and your entire beloved country are being lifted and held in prayer.

David@Montreal said...

Prayer offered in tears for you all


Wormwood's Doxy said...

Prayers from here continue, Brian. Please keep us posted, as you are able.