Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Close to home

Upwey bushfire
nifwlseirff on flickr
Monitoring a bushfire, and having to evacuate, is completely and utterly physically and emotionally exhausting.

Always on edge, the cats pick up on the stress and get upset.

 Sleep is continually disrupted, checking on websites, radio, news every few hours.

 I am glad I had the internet, therefore not having to rely on door-knockers to tell us when to evacuate, so I could leave early.

On Monday when the Upwey fire flared, I was at home, with the cats and no car. It was the first time I had spoken with my neighbour, both of us leaning over out verandahs watching the smoke.

The car made it home in time, and we watched the CFA and DSE websites for warnings, lamenting at how rarely they are updated, and listened to the CFA scanner stream, 774 Melbourne radio, and watched a few fellow twitterers. Twitter was fantastic, it was as if I had tens of eyes looking at the news and fire sites and watching the sky. We evacuated when the wind turned about 5pm, sending the fire north towards Tecoma, and smothered us in dark smoke, the CFA said our area was at risk of ember attack.

The landlord doesn't like cleaning the gutters (difficult, expensive), so there is no hope of defending, leaving early is the only option. Headed north, around the mountain and then back towards Melbourne, with a couple of very upset cats howling their protests. Ash fell on the car when we stopped for petrol in The Basin, so we continued out of the hills. Waited in an undercover carpark for a while, just in case they got it under control quickly, running phone batteries down watching the websites and listening to radio.

Ended up heading to a friends house, who wonderfully offered kitty and crash space, just in case the fire stayed uncontrolled. After the ember threat was downgraded, headed back home, after midnight, exhausted, with incredibly stressed cats. A nervous night followed, constantly checking for updates, with the fire flaring the next day on the edge closest to us (quickly under control). ABC news had some coverage of the fire (video).

Now I constantly hear sirens and the helicopter buzz, only some of those sounds are real though. This is a little too close to home, with more high fire danger days approaching.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Victoria's inferno

Victorian fires 8 Feb '09
nifwlseirff on flickr
The Victorian fires are still burning a week on, but are much more controlled. So many people have been killed, and many, many more have lost their homes, pets, friends, family. Wildlife has also suffered greatly.

These fires are the most vicious and destructive that Victoria has seen. What makes it so much worse as many seem to have been deliberately lit, or caused by poorly maintained electricity supply equipment, in a month where everything was bone dry, almost no rain for over a month, and temperatures soared (46 degrees C in Melbourne).

The firefighters were overwhelmed, entire towns have been burnt, as the high winds drove the fire at incredible speeds and awful intensity. The rebuilding process is going to be long, difficult and emotional.

One website has gathered together many links to various charities, appealing for donations to help those affected by the fires. They also list suggestions for helping other than offering donations. Zoos Victoria is also appealing for donations to help wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary is temporarily closed, their staff are working hard to help save injured wildlife.

The DSE fire map, and the list of incidents on the CFA website are useful websites to track the fires, but they are not coping very well with the load on their web servers.

The ABC, SBS, The Age and other many other Australian news providers have dedicated areas of their websites covering the bushfires and recovery efforts.