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The Firestorms - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
tania
tania
The Firestorms
My father drove us into a small bushfire once when we were kids - we all knew the rules, knew what to look for and how to stay safe. The fire was threatening the Caloundra suburb of Golden Beach and embers were beginning to drift onto the lawns when we drove under the solid wall of black smoke coming off the fire front.

At this point he turned us around and we drove out. The residents of Golden Beach were on their lawns with hoses, spraying down the rooftops and stamping out embers. This was a standard, more-or-less predictable bushfire. We could have out-walked it. Ultimately no lives or houses were lost.

This was my experience of bushfires - this and the hazy red sunsets I'm sure every Australian has experienced at one time or another - and at first I couldn't comprehend how a bushfire could have taken the 181 people who have been confirmed dead in Victoria so far.

This excellent journal entry offers a good and thorough overview of what happened (thanks for the link, Peter): http://blamebrampton.livejournal.com/70890.html

The temperature in Victoria that day was a staggering 47 degrees C, which equates to 116.5 degrees F. These firestorms moved at twice the speed of a car. They were so hot that people running ahead of the fire fronts began to burn long before the flames reached them. They worked so fast that by the time homeowners saw the first few embers landing on the roof, the place was already alight. By the time people began to realise they couldn't save their houses, it was almost too late to save themselves.

This interactive map from the Herald Sun shows where the fires are currently burning:
http://mp3.news.com.au/hwt/Victoria_fire/

http://news.com.au has numerous accounts from survivors.

And this is the Red Cross website, where you can donate anything from AU$5 upwards toward disaster relief:
http://www.redcross.org.au
8 have fought ~ fight the power!
Comments
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: February 11th, 2009 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been following this story on the news when I can. It's just amazing at how much is being lost.

As a Californian, we have this sort of thing happen every year, these brush fires. Generally everyone knows what to do and there's not a lot of lives lost, fortunately. The fact that people died in their cars trying to outrun it is such a foreign concept to me, and very very saddening.

My prayers go out to everyone down there
ameliabeare From: ameliabeare Date: February 11th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I hope you don't mind me linking to you. I've been avoiding writing about this for a while, it's just too much, but I had to say something.
tania From: tania Date: February 11th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Sure, go for it.
faiarrow From: faiarrow Date: February 11th, 2009 07:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Having fought through the 2003 Canberra Bushfires and being scared almost to death from the sky which had gone as black as night during the middle of the day with the horrifying glow on the hill-line and the extreme roar of the fire... I can empathize with a lot of the survivors of the fire storm.

The night before the fire, we watched it creep over Mount Tenant in Namadgi. The first thing of the next day I remember was there were no birds when I woke up. I remember being the one carrying the radio around the house to keep up with the news around the city, if we should leave, how fast was the rest of it coming. Mum and dad were on the roof hosing down the perimeter. We had large hot embers raining on us. We wet bandanas and put them on our faces to stop breathing the smoke. The storm created really eerie things along with the black sky. All the street-lights turned on when the blackness hit, and I don't know if it was gasses or other things in the smoke that was causing it, but sometimes you could just see red and only red, or just green in terms of colours around you. Really fucking creepy and scary. I never want to live through that again, I cried myself to sleep that night finally at about 3 am when I felt safe enough to sleep. Tharwa near us was still on fire that night, but contained and no longer the threat it was before.

The birds returned the next day. Some sort of relief washed over a lot of us in our area. I'm located in a cluster of suburbs at the bottom of Canberra called Conder, Banks and Gordon. Gordon was partially on fire, the one best road out of there was a blaze. Three suburbs were left with one two-way road out if we had to get out, and it was clustered with people who had come DOWN INTO THE SUBURB to see the phenomenon that was the firestorm heading straight for us from Namadgi. If it had hit, it would have been like some of the towns in Victoria, with bodies burnt in cars. There was no escape if it hit. None.

While we certainly didn't have a very heavy human casualty number, it was still something that left a city almost ruined and most of it's people scarred, many homeless, many afraid that it can easily happen again given the entire lower half of our city backs onto the Namadgi reserve. Namadgi still has completely dead gums, the fire was that hot. Cotter looked like someone had set up rows of toothpicks along the hills because of the extreme winds of the firestorm. Honestly, and it's harsh, if the suburb of Duffy hadn't burned to the ground like it did, Canberra would have been lost. That suburbs firestorm converged with the surrounding storm and created a convection. The wind just stopped and the fires were able to be contained. If only some of the towns in Vic had been as lucky.. to be wiped off the map..

Gah I've rambled. Every time I think of the Victorian Fires, I think of the ones we had here. Something I'll never forget.

I'm shedding a lot of tears with and for my home state of Victoria. Something this terrible should never happen, ever. Even if fire is a way of life in Australia, it doesn't stop it from hurting.
singingnettle From: singingnettle Date: February 11th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Amazing.
supinternets From: supinternets Date: February 11th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a tragedy. I really feel for all those dealing with this.
peterchayward From: peterchayward Date: February 11th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
About 6 people have reposted that link so far. It's quite a good link!
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: February 11th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
frightening... ! 8|
Thank you for the links!
8 have fought ~ fight the power!