Australian Bushfire Tragedy

Bushfires, Victoria, Australia

Bushfires, Victoria, Australia (Sydney Morning Herald)

Sydney, Sunday

Australian summers are hot, and one of the biggest dangers is bushfires.  The combination of fierce heat and high wind can be devastating.

For the past several days, the state of Victoria has experienced terrifying bushfires. This evening we watched a special one-hour news report about the tragedy, in which so far over 80 people have died and 700 homes have been destroyed.  The numbers are still rising as I type this.

New South Wales also has multiple fires burning, but so far no lives or homes have been lost.  Yesterday morning in Sydney, Clive and I awoke to the dreaded smell of fire in the air.  This is unusual for us, since we live almost at water’s edge, not in the midst of bushland, as many Aussies do.  Yesterday afternoon driving on the motorway, we saw heavy smoke from one of the New South Wales fires burning near the Hunter Valley.

Until I moved to Australia, I didn’t understand the ever-present threat of bushfires, or how scary they can be when they burn so close to home.  I know some U.S. California residents do understand.

Watching the news is heartbreaking.  Most people are thankful to be alive, yet when they see their homes and businesses burnt to the ground, it’s hard to avoid breaking down.

As happens in situations like this, there is a tremendous national outpouring of sympathy and assistance.  Firefighters from all over Australia have been travelling to Victoria to help, as have rescue and trauma workers.

The most shocking fact of all is that a number of these fires were caused by arson, as has been the case in other years.  The penalty for this crime is up to 25 years in prison, a sentence that in my opinion is far too light.

Farmer in Bushfire, Victoria, Australia (Sydney Morning Herald)

Farmer in Bushfire, Victoria, Australia (Sydney Morning Herald)

 Sydney Morning Herald ‘Hell’s Fury Unleashed’

8 Responses

  1. Hi Carolyn,

    We were just watching this on the news here in France. I’m sorry to hear about the fires… It’s just a horrible tragedy. I say this as a former So. Cal. resident. I grew up in fire country and remember many intense fires that we’ve had in So. Cal. since my childhood… The Malibu fires when I was young… and also living in San Diego for 23 years- we’ve had a lot of bad ones over the past 6 years or so… They seem to be getting worse as Cal. gets less rainfall year after year, and then it’s soooo hot and dry in the summer- it gives the perfect conditions for brush fires… Of course, the majority of them are arson… HORRIBLE!! I can totally understand and relate to the severity of this… I hope more lives aren’t lost … it’s such so sad… It’s hard enough when people lose their homes and everything they own, but lives cannot be replaced…. I am going to California this summer for six weeks… Hopefully, they won’t have bad fires again this year….. Take care, Leesa

  2. Such a sad situation..I cannot imagine what it feels like. What possesses the people to diliberately start fires….I hope that no lives are lost..due to this stupidity. Hopefully the fires will be over very very soon.!

    Take Care

  3. Call it arson or terrorism, it is sad to think a human being would deliberately cause harmship to other human beings, wildlife, destroy forrests and add to pollution. My heart cause out to you and your countrymen.

  4. It’s hard to believe people become arsonists. It’s no different than being a terrorist and blowing up innocent people in my opinion. I can’t imagine losing everything.

  5. Hi Carolyn,
    I feel so bad seeing some of the people recount their horror.
    I believe that human life is more precious than anything, but just what can you say to a woman who has just lost her home that she lived in during the past 25 years ??

    I used to get brush fires in the summer where I was in HI. Our city was in the mountains with lots of dry scrub around. We had a few frights in the summer months but nothing too serious.

    Hugs XX

  6. The fires are the lead stories on many newscasts here in the U.S. Literally the eyes of the world are watching.

    I cannot speak about bush fires as I have no experience with them, but I can tell you that when I burn ditches in the spring I am amazed at how FAST the fire moves and how HOT the fire is. It does not burn – it seems to explode when it hits dry grass.

    Several years ago a man who farmed near my parents home was burning some ditches. The fire got away from him because of a southwest wind and spread across a corn field (this was in the fall). My father could see this wall of flames coming at our homestead and he ran across the road to where a man was plowing.

    The other farmer came across the road and plowed two wide swaths around the buildings and house – and that is what stopped the fire. My father was very lucky that man was plowing as there would not have been time to hook up his own plow and get that plowing done before the fire hit. The neighbor had a huge tractor and plow and that is what saved the farm buildings.

    So fire can be extremely dangerous. I will be thinking about that situation in your country and I know the world will be following it closely, too.

    Take care.

  7. As an Aussie and having lived through bushfires in 2003, it makes me very sad to see all this loss of life. Homes can be rebuilt people are gone forever. Too, too sad. There are just no words at all.

  8. Thank you all so much for your expressions of concern and sympathy.

    Leesa and Barbara, you do understand from your experience in CA and Hawaii. Nagege and Linda, I agree it’s terrorism- great point. My brother-in-law said the arsonists should be burned at the stake themselves.

    Anne, the fires are still burning and last night (Tuesday in Oz) more arson was discovered in the midst of the worst area. SO unbelievable. Russell, interesting re the farmland fires – Clive had told me about similar approaches to stopping fires in Australia (or anywhere).

    Lilly, thanks for your comment and I know you also understand from your experience in 2003.

    Take care everyone and thanks again.

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