This is the left view of our house at about eleven o’clock this morning. Lovely blue skies.
This is the right view of the house. Looks like thunder clouds, but it’s not. It’s smoke clouds, coming from a bushfire.
You live in Australia and it’s a common Summer thing – bushfires. When you hear you’re going to have a week of over 40 C, you assume that a fire will break out somewhere, but it won’t happen to you. It always happens somewhere else, never in your backyard.
And yet, surreally – it is now.
I’m in a safe area, the fire is miles away and a river is between it and us. But in the town across the river, where I shop and the children go to school and we live our lives, there is a very real threat to houses and land and lives, too.
Our local radio station has been broadcasting all day to leave your house if you live in the affected area, don’t stay to defend. I can only sit and watch, and think about the friends who live over the river.
It’s been still and calm all day and the sky has been throwing an orange tint. It’s eerie, that’s the only way to describe it. There’s no birds, no sounds of life anywhere.
Later on in the afternoon, the fire definitely seemed to have got stronger. I have been feeling unsettled all day. I’ve been glued to facebook and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing, but it’s been hard to let it alone.
After a few hours of smoke building, suddenly it seemed to change. The colour of the clouds lightened, and the radio reported that the immediate danger level had passed, but as with fires, anything can and does happen.
The orange of the clouds makes you think that it is flame – but it isn’t.
And yet to the left, it’s still all calm and peaceful. Amazing how two views can be so totally different.
An hour or so after the immediate threat had passed, I went outside and saw this. This is new, this is a new outbreak I think The smoke had cleared, this is all new.
I went inside and turned on the radio, which is broadcasting emergency calls all afternoon. It confirmed my thoughts – the fire had turned and got more fierce, and the highest level of awareness had been called for again.
As I said, our house and our area is totally fine – we are too far from the flames to be in danger, and the ash that is falling is small and not embers – embers that fly make things catch alight, and that is our biggest danger. But the distance is too far and the embers are long gone by the time they reach us.
I drove to the local cemetery down the road from our house and got this view:
There is one massive fire in the scrub behind that smokey area. But the two smoke areas you can see are the two sides of it pushing towards the outer edges of the town. A change is meant to arrive later tonight but that means strong winds with no rain, and that could be catastrophic. Strong winds will only make it move faster before they can prepare.
I don’t know how people live immediately in bushland. We have bushland all around us but not close – the bush you can see in the middle here is encased in river, and big cliffs, so it would be a pretty clever fire to get past that tonight. But even these people living out where they do wouldn’t think they are in any danger.
It’s scary, guys. I’ve not been this close to a bushfire ever. Not liking it one bit.
As I said, I’m totally safe, and I have no worries about life lost – people here are sensible (Lord, I hope they are anyway) and they will leave if they have to, but houses, pets, animals, gardens, livelihoods – it’s all scary what people could lose. And the firies fighting the fire are all volunteers, dads just like my dad who used to go each time they asked him to. I hate the thought of him being out there in this.
We are all told to be fire ready – have all the photos backed up onto disc, copies of insurances, precious mementoes packed in case we have to leave. All day I’ve been listening to friends post on Facebook that they have done that, and it seems so bizarre that they actually have to – the idea that it’s happening to my town is just bizarre.
I’ll let you know tomorrow the aftermath. The wind is here now so no doubt we will know the outcome in a few hours.