Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by klmno, Feb 7, 2009.

  1. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I haven't caught up with the news or much else the past few days, but I did see something about Australia having horrible wildfires. Are you ok? Are these near you or effecting you? I hope you are well away from sounds horrible and I feel for anyone around them. I'm sure it indirectly effects the whole country.
  2. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Yes, I just read the headlines about that too, southeast Australia.... please check in and let us know you are o.k.!
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I mentioned on the Good Morning thread last night (my time - Saturday morning for you guys) that 15 people had been killed in Victoria, with the numbers possibly being as high as 40.

    We saw the news this morning (Sunday). The problem has been that the fires are really severe. I remember as a kid being told that a bad bushfire can travel faster than an express train - but since then I've seen fires travel faster. The '94 fires just before difficult child 3 was born, were of a terrifying scale previously unheard of. But from what I saw on TV this morning - yesterday's fires in Victoria are equally as bad. If you see it on your TV, just remember this - the fires being filmed are not the worst. The fires are small enough to be filmed. The worst areas are so bad that the fire crews can't get in and neither can the media. Anyone in the area is on the run, nobody has time to stand and film, when they're running for their lives.

    They now know that 25 people are confirmed dead, including some children. They just haven't been able to get out in time, the entire area has been baked dry over the past few weeks, including some really intense record-breaking temperatures. The vegetation is mostly as flammable as gunpowder soaked in petrol.

    The reports are of towns hit by the fires and gone in a couple of minutes. Where towns have been cut off from even emergency services, nobody has heard from them or been abe to get in to find out what has happened. Firefighting tanker choppers have done what they could, but that is where they fear the death toll could be higher. They just won't know until they get the fire crews in there - did the fires miss the towns, or did they wipe out the towns? The choppers can see damage, but did the owners get out safely or not? And if so, where did they go? The feared death toll sounds to me like an estimate based on statistics - if we have already had fires hit X number of villages with Y death toll, and we know another Z villages have been hit by fires, then the death toll could be as high as Y(X + Z)/X.

    I mention fires deliberately lit - they have caught a few people who deliberately lit a fire trying to cause a problem. But there have been others, totally thoughtless, who threw cigarette butts out the window. One kid on the news this morning reported seeing this and then a fire start, while he and his family were trying to save their home (I think they lost it). Someone on the news said that in California, it is illegal to light acigarette during a total fire ban in a high risk area. It certianly used to be social rule here. I remember an old Marlboro ad which showed a man riding through a wheatfield lighting a cigarette - my parents were highly scoffing of that ad because they said no farmer in his right mind would light up in the middle of a wheatfield ready for harvest. Asking for trouble. There are no ashtrays on a horse.
    The Australia in which I grew up, taught these things as common sense. But we've had such an influx of immigrants over the last few decades and with an increase in safety and hazard reduction, people forget and get complacent. And the newer Aussies just don't realise, if they haven't grown up with a healthy fear of fire. Or an unhealthy fear, in husband's case.
    Victoria was very much bushranger country a hundred years ago and more, because it is so mountainous and isolated. It makes backburning a problem and in a crisis, it makes firefighting also very difficult.

    Only a year ago, there were again very bad fires through Victoria, they just couldn't put them out until they burned out. Now they're saying this could be worse then the Ash Wednesday fires

    The scary thing is - they prepared for this, they put all the precuations in place that they could. Ash Wednesday was so bad because we were caught by surprise and people made mistakes.

    Now to us in NSW. Again, we're likely to be safe here. In our part of Sydney the temperatures won't get above 35 C today (95 F). However, in the western suburbs of Sydney it's going to go over 45 C (113 F). In NSW our National Parks & Wildlife people have been burning off through winter, keeping the fuel load down. This hasn't always been possible in Victoria, where they are having so much trouble now.

    Currently there is only one fire in Sydney's outskirts (deliberately lit on Friday sometime). They're still fighting it but it's mostly in bushland now. But today could be bad.
    I just checked the Bureau of Meteorology website for the current weather warning - they haven't updated it, it still has Saturday's warnings up.

    "Warning summary
    A Fire Weather Warning and Total Fire Ban for today. Refer to for latest warnings and Rural Fire Service Total Fire Ban information.
    A Health Alert for poor air quality has been issued by the NSW Department of Health. For more information see:

    Forecast for Sunday
    Fine. Sunny. Very hot in the west. Freshening north to northeast winds ahead of a late southerly change.

    Precis: Sunny. Late southerly change.
    Fire danger: Very High to Extreme."

    As I said, we'll be fine here. Amazingly, it's not even too hot here. We've got the house battened down, husband has been lopping off dead Cabbage Tree Palm fronds and stuffing them in the bin. Those palm fronds are brilliant as kindling, I have to be careful to only use a few strands from a single leaf to start a fire in the pizza oven, or I risk burning out the pizza oven. You can look at the leaves and the stems, and see the gleam on them like varnish. As they heat up in a fire you can see this natural varnish melt and catch fire. Scary, to have several large specimens of this growing wild beside the house.

    We're about to go and collect mother in law to come and sit in our house. Even though she has air conditioning, her house heats up too much. Ours should stay cool today, plus we'll got for a swim if it gets too hot here. husband has hung a tarpaulin outside our bathroom wall of glass, to shield it from the western sun. The budgies aren't happy - they like the picture window in there and now it's dark blue in their favourite room. I can hear them scolding.

    Watching tis on the news this morning - it's scary. difficult child 3 has no memory of the bad fires of course, it was before he was born. He's seen fires here, but they were nothing by comparison. Even husband - he wasn't here that day, he was at work. He had to watch from across the water when it looked really bad. We were right in it but too close to really see it or smell it (sounds stupid, I know). Today is a weekend - that's when the risk of arson climbs through the roof. But it's also when people are at home and better able to fight the fires. Our villages here are better protected than most, but we only survived '94 due to luck. Today nobody should go for a bushwalk, it's advised against. You could be out on the headland with nowhere to go to get away from a fire, and nobody knowing you're there. At the campsite last night, where difficult child 1 & daughter in law are staying, there were gas barbecues under cover for people to cook on safely. No fires permitted. Right where the kids' tents are, is a common spot for fires to start (from camper's fires out of control). If a fire started there, the kids would be in trouble trying to bug out fast. Too far from the lagoon, they'd have to take shelter in the mangrove swamp. They'll be packing up there now, they need to check out by midday.

    I'll update here as there is news, a few hours and we'll know more.

  4. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Well, I'm glad to hear you are safe but am so sorry that others have died- especially so many. This is horrible and such a shame. I had heard a little about it but the photo I saw on the news made it look like it was away from civilization and I was really hoping that it put no one at risl. Of course, there is still wildlife to think about and vegetation. I'm sure a fire of that magnitude effects the whole country even if it isn't near civilization. But, then to read that people were around and died and injured-- it is just very, very sad.
  5. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Maybe a Moderator could delete this- I just saw Marg's post about it.
  6. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    Wow....stay safe! Update when you can and let us know how difficult child 1 and daughter in law are doing.
  7. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Glad to know you are safe, but horrified about the loss of life already with this blaze! I can appreciate the anxiety over situations like this, having just gone through it ourselves a few months ago. Loss of property is one thing, but when lives are lost there are just no words...
  8. bran155

    bran155 Guest

    How sad!!! I am glad you are okay though!!! :)
  9. ML

    ML Guest

    I'm glad to hear you're ok but feel bad for the others fighting for their lives. How horrible. I sure hope there is a break in the weather soon.

    It must be especially difficult for you after the 93 fires.

    I'm thinking of you.

  10. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    I merged these two threads because I wanted to make sure that Marg and her family knew we all are thinking of them. {{{Hugs}}} I hope the stress isn't too great.
  11. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Marg, I'm so glad you're okay. I was watching the news and thinking of you. Keep us updated - yours is probably the best first hand account.
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We've heard from difficult child 1 & daughter in law - they dropped in with their friends at 1.30, just as we'd given up on them and I'd started to get lunch. I had to quickly find enough food for them as well.

    The house is closed up with curtains drawn - ideal for watching movies. I've left husband & mother in law watching another movie while I got online to check the nes and talk to you guys.

    Thanks for worryintg but we are OK. The main danger we will be in, is if some idiot lights a fire in our area. And because '94 was so bad, it can't be that bad again for many years. It has grown back a lot, but there are still fewer large trees. ALso, the authorities have been working hard to keep road edges cleared with no overhang, so every road is also a firebreak of sorts. I miss the shady driving, but we are safer.

    The areas being burned - it's rural, not bushland. Country towns and farmland on the outskirts of larger cities. It's all inhabited, not as empty as it looks.

    The last news I can get says that the army have now been called in to help, I suspect our local brigades are going to be heading down south once tonight's cool change comes through with no outbreak here. The fires are in East Gippsland, a lot of native bushland there with plenty of farms. Aussie farms leave as much natural vegetation as they can, because if they don't then they lose topsoil in the winds and rain, and livestock die out from lack of shade. But this isn't full-on farmland, it's more like outlying towns beyond the capital city of Melbourne. I have a link I'll include at the end, from the BBC. It's got a map to show you how close to Melbourne the worst of this is. The trouble is - when you ahve fires started by firebugs, you're most likely to get them close to a capital city because firebugs don't inconvenience themselves to go too far away. A crisis is much more fun for firebugs, if they can threaten more lives.

    New flash - at least 35 killed, another 8 critical, death toll expected to rise. Marysville & Kinglake reported as being "almost wiped out".

    The TV didn't say, but in fact Marysville residents are OK, they all got to safety. Aussies are generally really good at emergency procedures and evacuation, in a crisis everything generally works smoothly. The trouble here is, we've had such unseasonally hot weather (record-breaking) plus long-term lack of rain (much worse than usual) plus firebugs (who consensus says should be charged with murder) that the catastrophe is as bad as it is, despite the best we can do (which generally is formidable).

    The Ash Wednesday fires were so bad, because there was little preparation and people didn't have good emergency procedures in place. This time we do - and it's still this bad.

    The death toll is expected to rise, because they still haven't got to check out the damage in some of the worst-hit areas. They know houses have gone but have no word of where the people have gone. They can see cars burning, they don't know if there were any people in them but are afraid there were.

    Our safety rules are - make up your mind early if you're going to stay with your home & fight, or leave. If you leave, do it early and not at the last minute. If you stay, be well-prepared. Cooperate with authorities. But this time - people didn't always have time to make the decision, once they realised they were in danger.

    They just revised the death toll to 36. They think we could come close to or even pass the Ash Wednesday death toll (75), but as I said - that was higher than it should have been, this one is really bad. Kinglake is apparently a mess, 12 people killed there alone. We'll know more in the 6 pm news.

    And here is a detailed link from the ABC, I'm going to post this then go through the link in more detail myself. For us, ABC is probably the best authority - it's like the Aussie version of the BBC.

    Thanks for caring, guys. We appreciate it.

  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Death toll now 49, expectedto rise further. They expect over 500 homes gone (total still unknown) and the fires have even been within striking distance to the CBD for Melbourne.

    This in breaking news, interview with the Vic Premier John Brumby.

    We've come through the day here, no worries. Victoria is anoter matter. We should be fine, the change should come through in a few hours. That will pretty much ensure we're safe for now here in NSW. Victoria is in trouble for days more, yet.

    We have strict penalties for firebugs - a fire incurring a death incurs a murder penalty.

    As husband just said, "Australia is a country where we are used to fires and well prepared for fighting them, perhaps the best-prepared in the world. And we have been overwhelmed."

    We're about to go for a much-needed swim, taking mother in law. I think she'll need a good soak in the sea to strenghthen her enough to watch the 6 pm news. I know I do.

    Our summer - we're always scanning the horizon for those smudges of brown...

    Just heard - death toll now 50.

  14. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I forgot to give you the ABC link - here is an even better one.

    It's not about someone called Justin, it is "just in" so it is ALL the latest news. While the fires are topical then news will be most up to date here. The link is getting updated every hour, so if you want to stay in touch with this, just keep refreshing the page.

    Death toll is now up to 84 which now makes this the official worst ever fires. They still haven't got into all areas affected by the fires; the areas still not checked out are also the worst hit, so we know the toll is going to be higher. To date, 750 homes gone. It's almost comical in a macabre way because the subtitles on the TV news are lagging behind in terms of numbers; the text says "700 homes" while the newsreader has the update from five minutes before (or less). It shows us just how fast the information is being updated.

    husband was just saying (and I agree) that the ferocity of these fires matches what we went through in 1994, but these are covering about ten times the area and also involving more urban areas instead of national park (in our case). But when people talk about exploding trees, intense winds driving the fire into unbelievable ferocity, we can believe it because we've been through something similar. The fire is so big it creates its own wind that drives the fire further forward. The temperatures in the path of the fire are driven incredibly higher, into the 50s (C - over 120 F and higher). I remember the hot wind, it was so hot it killed the grass, roots and all. Just from the heat of the wind, that grass never got hit by flames. Aluminium road signs burned, thick hardwood posts on the roadside burned through top and bottom, leaving the centre white and unburned (we still have one of these in our front garden, we souvenired it weeks later, the charred stump is still in the original place).

    I was wrong about everyone surviving in Marysville - one confirmed death. Considering the total devastation, the entire town wiped off the map - only one death is a testament to the incredible efforts and coordinated hard work of the firefighters and evacuation organisation.

    If you look at the map you will see just how close all this is, to one of Australia's biggest cities. The fires are as bad as they are, because some so-and-so is out there lighting more fires. They will catch the culprit, our people are very good at finding the firebugs. And the more fires the firebug lights, the more evidence he is leaving. They will get him. He's wanted for 84 murders now. He'd better pray the police get to him first.

  15. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    Geez, Marg. I haven't had the TV on in days. I'm so sorry this is happening, but happy that you all are safe. What a tradegy.

  16. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Thinking of you and other Austrailians also.

    I'm so sorry. This is so horrible. Prayers this is under control immediately.
  17. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    With every catastrophe our disaster preparation guidelines andadvice are being reviewed.

    In past years, the advice has been to stay with your house if you feel you are fit enough to help fight the fire, you have the best chance of survival if you follow the rules. The flip side to this advice is that if you are gonig to leave, do it well ahead and get right out of the way.

    They are now reviewing this advice. Many of the bodies were people in cars, trying to get away. They just didn't have enough time. And it wasn't lack of forethought - the fires took a week to go X distance. Then the winds suddenly whipped up (possibly aggravated by firebugs) and the fires covered another X distance in 10 minutes. Sometimes they changed direction at the same time.

    The Monday morning news is on, they've extended it past 9 am. It's ghastly. The link above (thanks, Sheila - good Aussie name, that) has the update on death toll, it has been changing rapidly as I watch TV. When I turned it on this morning they were saying, 95 dead. Now it's 108. Names are starting to be released.

    On the news, we're seeing reporters who are normally tough as nails, in tears. Our politicians, in tears unable to speak. Last night one reporter was talking to a woman who was describing how horrifying the fire was, as it charged onto their farmhouse. But when the woman was showing the reporter around the destruction, they found her pet dog, killed by the fire. They'd been unable to find the dog when they ran. That was when they both cried, the woman and the hard-bitten reporter.

    The latest - roads are closed still, because each burnt-out carload is acrime scene. Half the state is a crime scene. Power lines are down, phone lines are down. And I remember from our own time "on the run" in '94, mobile phone towers are also out, we were told to stay off the mobile networks which made it even more difficult because we had no other means of being in touch. From what we've seen on TV and in photos - this is like what we went through. The only reason '94 fires in our area didn't kill more people, was luck, the shape of the land and the fact that much of what burned near us was uninhabited. Otherwise - the descriptions are the same, I'm finding my PTSD is trying to break out. Probably a good thing - I need to use every opportunity to try to deal with it constructively. But I think I need to find another network to watchn one with no continual coverage. I'm finding the human side of this just too distressing. There's a man who was on the phone to his wife, who was home with their two kids. Then the phone went dead, and the police won't let him up that road because it is still closed. He is pleading with them to let him go, he is only one person, he knows exactly where to look... the trouble is, that is what he thinks. He won't have any landmarks, he won't know where to look because her won't recognise where he is. That's what we found, when we first went back home. But listening to this man - more reporters in tears. And the other bystanders at that evac centre - a mess.

    Mind you, I think the media are being very responsible. They're working with emergency servicves and helping with information (stay indoors if you're not in danger but keep safe from the smoke especially if you are in a high-risk group). They're also trying to note down any house still standing, trying to work out the address (possibly with the help of GPS) so they can let people know. Because a house still standing could also have people alive inside. A smart move.

    Everything is falling into place. The totally astounding thing about all this - we are used to fire, in this country. We have emergency procedures in place. We're good at staying safe. These people haven't died because they were foolish, or they made mistakes. It's simply that this was just too big, too immense, too sudden and despite everything we could do, despite all the precautions put in place ahead of time, we've still lost these people.

    If we had not put the services in place that we did, if we didn't have such brilliant rescue people (not to mention the many teams of firefighters) then you could add a zero or two to the 108 death toll so far.

    The heat has eased today. it's cooler and overcast. Thankfully the cool change, when it came through, didn't have the expected high winds behind it. They are trying to use this to advantage, in their efforts to manage the fire.

    I'll be heading down to the service station in a few minutes, when mother in law turns up to give me a lift. The fire brigade is over the road. I'll have a look, but I'm betting they'll be gone, either to help fight the fires in NSW (Peat's Ridge north of Sydney, or Merimbula down south) or over the border, to Vic.

    I'll keep you posted.

  18. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Just horribly devastating. Be sure to take time outs from the news, even though it's difficult. Not exactly the same, but I remember imposing a "no TV" rule after the 9/11 attacks in NYC. Being from NY and living so close by, we knew and worked with a lot of people who were killed in the attack. I too, felt my PTSD kicking in and had to turn it off. Even now, if H is watching a special on it I have to leave the room. In the meantime, I have all the papers, etc., in a safe place.

    Be good to yourself, Marg. Continued prayers.
  19. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Marg, know my thoughts are with you. What a horrid situation. Hope there is no further death but it seems unlikely. Sending good thoughts that a large rain comes your way.
  20. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    Marg, this is just horrible. Please keep safe.