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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Bushfires 2013

I think many of us have feared this would be a bad bush fire season. We have had hot summers, and not very wet winters. The ground is dry, and bush areas are littered with very dry leaves, and no moisture. Add into that 30+ days during what should be spring, and fierce winds and you have a recipe for disaster.
A devastating disaster.

I grew up in the inner suburbs of Sydney, so my previous experience of bushfires has mostly been from a distance. I do have vivid memories of fires in the 90's that occured over Christmas one year. My Grandfather was a volunteer in the Rural Fire Service in the South Coast of NSW. We always stayed there during Christmas holidays, and one year the area was impacted by bushfires. I can still picture him coming home after fighting a fire, exhausted and blackened from the ash and soot.

Now I live near the Hawkesbury region of Sydney. It is the perfect mix of semi rural and suburban. Yet, it also means I am closer than I have ever been to one of the harshest realities of living in this country.


The remains of a home in Winmalee, near the Blue Mountains.

I can smell the smoke in the air, and can see the dark plumes in the distance. My heart aches as I know that within those plumes are people's homes burning. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed, and thousands of hectares of land damaged. On Thursday, when the fires were at their worst, there were 3000 fire fighters on duty across the state. Many of them are volunteers, battling dangerous conditions to save the homes, and lives, of many.

An aerial view showing the devastation of the Bushfires in Newcastle, but also the homes that were saved.

I wish we could say that it is all over, but the harsh reality is that we are only just starting 'bushfire season'. Weather forecasts are predicting many more hot, windy days ahead. On these days one lit cigarette, bit of glass in bushland, or a backburn one wrong can spark a raging fire.

Thick smoke could be seen from the city centre
My heart aches for the people whose homes have been lost or damaged. There has been one life lost so far. It is one too many. I have waited anxiously to hear that collegues and family members of friends are safe. I am going through my belongings and setting aside anything I can donate, as I know that many people have lost everything they own.

Most of all, I am in awe of the courage of our brilliant fire fighters. They are ordinary people, who are  putting their own lives at risk battling an unpredictable force of nature. They are heroes.

Firefighters protecting a property in Lithgow
All we can do now is wait and see.

Note: All photos have been taken from the NSW Emergency Coverage FB Page

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