Well, there’s been exciting times down here on the Far South Coast. Exciting, that is, when your heart is racing, your mouth is dry, the butterflies have escaped your tummy and are fluttering up and down your arms as well, and you simply cannot sit still for longer than 30 seconds before you have to jump up, peer anxiously out the window and then refresh the Rural Fire Services website.
Thankfully, we were a few kilometres away from the bushfire that swept through the Milligandi – Yellow Pinch area on Friday. At first, with an incredibly gusty and hot wind blowing from the north on a record breaking 44.7 degree day (that’s 112.5 fahrenheit for those of you in North America – eeeek!), the fire was heading in the direction of our small town here by the beach. However, with the predicted Southerly change sweeping in bang on time, the fire turned back on itself, jumped the Princes Highway instead and headed back up towards Bega.
Abby and Jules had been to the supermarket for a spot of air conditioning and dear Abby was so spooked by the incredible smoke and glow in the sky, that her suitcase was packed within five minutes of her return home.
All afternoon and evening, the helicopters thundered overhead, filling their water barrels from the Top Lake. I don’t know how successful they are in fighting fires – I saw a documentary on Australian bush fires last year that cast doubt on their effectiveness – a notion that is reinforced when you see just how modest in size those water barrels are. And as the small stream of water is flung down onto the blazing bush, it seems to practically evaporate before it hits the ground. But without doubt, as they roar off towards the smoke, their barrels swaying precariously, they raise the spirits. You can’t help but think that everything is being thrown at this fire.
We were also so terribly aware of – and so incredibly grateful to – the devoted and courageous firefighters – volunteer and paid – who line up against the flames. True heroes. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like – the heat, the roar of the flames, the unpredictable nature of the battle, the bitter air … oy!
By the time the fire was contained, there were a couple of homes and farm sheds lost and large tracts of bushland burnt to a crisp. I’m sure there would have been many hundreds of native animals killed. It’s a very sobering experience. My thoughts and prayers are with those folk who are experiencing it first hand, both last week and as I write, and to those who have lost their homes and belongings. Even more so, my thoughts are with the family of the man who died in fires at Seaton on Friday.
Now, the temperature is a much more civilised 27 and we are all keeping our fingers crossed that conditions will remain a bit more civilised, especially in the Warrambungles and the North East Gippsland, allowing the fire crews to get things under control. Oh my – so much loss. It seems that we are in for a long, hot summer.