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Graeme

Victorian Fires

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(From The Age Newspaper in Melbourne)

We're at the edge of the affect area. One of our neighbours told us a little while ago about someone who lost their two children in the fire at Kinglake. The man had been out fighting the fire, while the children were being looked after by their grandmother. The fire raced through and burnt the house to the ground. There were no survivors....

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My sympathies, Graeme. We had some horrific fires out here in LA a few months back, including some bad ones only 5 miles from us. It was a "perfect storm" of dry brush, hot air, and high winds -- in the wintertime! -- and the result was a real mess. I think there were 600 homes burned down, between Sylmar and Orange County. Very bad.

I think it behooves everybody to have some kind of plan just in case of an emergency -- what to grab, what to leave, where to go, insurance, fire alarms, etc. For us, it's just two cats and a box of hard drives. Everything else can go up in smoke, because that stuff can be replaced (eventually).

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Ack! :smile: I think I prefer our hurricanes.

Once you're a few miles off the beach, things aren't so bad. Messy and inconvenient but not that bad.

Where do you go when everything is on fire?

Please do take care Graeme. That's about as scary as anything I could image. :sad:

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Our fire plan is just to get out. We spent last night with at my mother-in-law's place, and we've just sent the boys back there to spend another night. We're in a low risk area, but that's not 'no risk' so we're sending our most valuable 'possessions' to safety :smile:

I should add that we've lived where we are for over ten years and this is the first time we've activated our fire plan. If the boys were older, we would probably have stayed because the risk where we live is low.

As long as the wind continues to come from the south, we'll be safe. Unfortunately, that's blowing the fires towards other towns....

Three townships (of varying size) that I know of have been destroyed so far: Wandong, Kinglake and Marysville.

Last I heard, the confirmed deaths is up to 35....

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It is truly awful. I have never seen fires up close, but I did vacation once (as a child) where there was a fire on the opposite side of a large lake. By the time it was done, over 1 million acres of land was scorched bare. Sadly, just like some of your fires, and the California ones, some kind of sicko set it.

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Three townships (of varying size) that I know of have been destroyed so far: Wandong, Kinglake and Marysville.

I've just had a phone call and been told that my information about Wandong was incorrect. Some houses were lost, but most of the township is okay.

It is truly awful. I have never seen fires up close, but I did vacation once (as a child) where there was a fire on the opposite side of a large lake. By the time it was done, over 1 million acres of land was scorched bare. Sadly, just like some of your fires, and the California ones, some kind of sicko set it.

The police have confirmed that some of the current fires were deliberately lit. I hope they can catch the people who did it.

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My thoughts are with you Graeme. We have sent some of our State's Country Fire Service personnel to Victoria, but of course one wrong flame and we could be in a similar situation to your state. This summer with its heat is very dangerous for all of us.

I really do not understand the firebugs's mentality, where do they come from?

Hope you continue to be safe. :smile:

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Thanks, Des!

I'm aware how much danger most of south east Australia is in. We've just finished watching the ABC news special on the fires, and saw that there are currently four fires in NSW running out of control, though happily without any deaths or loss of homes.

I hope you stay safe, too. My wife and I believe we're safe where we are, but we're acutely aware that many others in this area were not.

February is the peak time for fires in Australia and the month has only really just started.....

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Graeme,

I echo the thoughts of the other AD'rs. In Southern Californian, we experience these violent natural (and sometimes not so natural) disastors too often. I pray that the winds will tame.

That demented arsonists could do this is dispicable. One of the LA fires last year was caused by thoughtless campers who let their campfire get out of control.

My heart goes out to you, your family and all the Aussies in Victoria who are plagued by this.

Jack :smile:

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It truly is awful. I have just read that 85 have lost their lives due to these fires. I pray you remain save Graeme.

My sympathies to those families and friends of the victims of the fire.

Boiled down to its simplist explanation regarding the 'why' someone would do this: Power and for some, a sexual thrill.

I relieved so far to learn those whom I know from Australia are safe.

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It truly is awful. I have just read that 85 have lost their lives due to these fires. I pray you remain save Graeme.

The death toll is up to 96, but they are only just starting to get access to some of the affected areas. It's going to be well over 100.

I'm safe, and I don't see that changing. The fires have moved away from where we live, though that unfortunately means they headed towards other homes.

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In Mississippi from the Pine Belt North, we have vast areas of Pine and hardwood forest that are only interupted by roads and the occassional farm.

In the distant past, we would have periodic fires where undergrowth and leaves would burn off and not kill healthy trees. These fires would be quick, fast moving and cover large areas.

When you go to some of the oldest farms in these woods you find earthen berms or stone walls that were originally put there as fire breaks to keep the fires from advancing on the homes and barns. These are so old that they date back as far as the 1600's and are the only thing left in many cases.

Very early on the state was covered in virgin pine and hardwood forest but it was cut without regard to replanting. This was good for farming initially but became an ecological disaster when the soil "wore out" from over planting and we had our version of the dust bowl days.

In the 1920-30's fast growing long leaf pine was introduced and the vast stands of forest returned. New conservation laws were passed to keep the same mess from happening again. Farm fields were rotated to keep from depleting the soil and loggers were obligated to replant trees that were harvested and clear-cutting was banned except for construction.

Now that we've got forest again we have occassional fires but they don't cover dozens of square miles like they used to. Their spread is limited by roads, transmission line right-of-ways, waterways and fire breaks.

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One of the problems with these huge fires though, is that the winds carry the sparks for several MILES and earthen berms are of little help. With the wind the right way and speed (wrong way and speed, actually) the fire can move ahead at over 30 miles per hour, more even, although usually there is enough vagary in the air movement to prevent this from happening for hour after hour.

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One of the problems with these huge fires though, is that the winds carry the sparks for several MILES and earthen berms are of little help. With the wind the right way and speed (wrong way and speed, actually) the fire can move ahead at over 30 miles per hour, more even, although usually there is enough vagary in the air movement to prevent this from happening for hour after hour.

That's why we were at risk on Saturday. The winds were blowing the fire in our direction and we were put on alert. Besides being the hottest day on record, we had very strong northerly winds fanning the fires, too.

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I've noticed that large sections of the fire aftermath areas show signs that the fires are ground fires. That is a radical difference from here, where the fires go right up each tree, then crown. Crowning is where the tops of the trees ignite from one to the next, then the fire travels back to the ground again. There is literally nothing left afterwards. We have some of our drier areas in which we get the ground type of fire, which is super hot, fast, and leaves the tops of the trees often unaffected. I am not sure, but I think the types of trees that grow there (like your area) may even have developed that type of growth (long and wide apart, with tuffy tops) as a way of counteracting those types of fires.

I don't know about you, Graeme, but the smoke in the air is almost worse than the fear of the fire itself. Coughing, choking, eyes burning, cannot take a deep breath. I'm glad you are fine, but I don't envy you at all.

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I'll see if I can get some satellite images of this. I'll call my friend with the Corp and see if they've got any he can release.

According to one of the NY Time articles, NASA has released satellite photos showing the smoke from the fires. I looked at the time, but I couldn't find them (I honestly didn't know where to search, and they didn't appear to be indexed by the search engines at the time).

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Thanks, James!

For those not familiar with that part of Australia, there is a bay down in the lower left. Melbourne essentially covers the north and east of that bay, with a little to the west. The river about a third down from the top on the left is the Murray river, the border between Victoria and NSW. As you can see, the smoke covers a very large part of south eastern Australia.

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bushfires-feb-7-580x386.jpg

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This link to Geoscience Australia normally has live an interactive view, but has been temporarily removed because of demand.

However the maps available under Current Overview link should help with understanding where the above images are located as well as the current state of the fires.

For those of you who wish more knowledge about bushfires in general, Bushfires ClearlyExplained.com provides much good information.

As an aside:

I suspect that many people will have seen that the Australian Government had announced a package of $42 Billion to kick start our economy as part of an answer to the World financial problems. This in part would see anyone earning less than $100,000 p.a. (Australian) receiving a cheque from the government for $A950.

Many of us in financial difficulties were looking forward to receiving this money, but it gladdens my heart to see so many people publicly saying that the government should use the $42 Billion to rebuild the homes and towns affected by the fire as well as using the money towards solving our extremely serious water problems.

Such a basic infrastructure building program would be a real incentive to the economy and certainly better than people buying another plasma TV. That's my thought anyway.

Again I offer my thoughts and condolences to my fellow Australians who are suffering in this tragedy.

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Such a basic infrastructure building program would be a real incentive to the economy and certainly better than people buying another plasma TV. That's my thought anyway.

Hi, Des,

I'd like to see some of that money being used to rebuild, just like Darwin was rebuilt after cyclone Tracey, and Newcastle after the earthquake, but the money needs to be more widely spread than that. Rebuilding will predominantly benefit the Victorian economy, and there are hardships across the country. Building programs in all the states will be needed.

As an aside, my wife remarked last night how the fires in Victoria have taken the spotlight off the massive flooding that's currently occurring in parts of Queensland. We in Victoria are not alone in suffering from a natural disaster. There are also still bushfires burning out of control in NSW, though happily without loss of life or property, so far.

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Thanks Graeme, I agree. My point was that putting a sizable amount of the package into infrastructure and rebuilding would benefit the economy in all states because many goods and services would need to be supplied from all over Australia. Certainly, the NSW fires and the Queensland flood victims should be included in any such plans.

The devastation of the drought and the effect on the Riverland and the near demise of the lower lakes really needs to be considered also. These are primarily the source of water for so much of our land and population. Additional programs for electricity generation are needed in all states.

We have a sizable portion of our unemployed and pensioners who need assistance because they live below the poverty line.

We have to rebuild the homes and infrastructure destroyed by the Victorian and NSW bushfires and QLD floods.

We have a serious problem with the River system drying up and how that impacts on the fire devastated areas for supply and irrigation, as well as for industrial use.

Electricity generation and distribution needs to be considered as well.

If these issues are set aside in order to support secondary industry and frivolous public purchases, I can see we are going to have lovely cars with no where to drive and TVs without electricity, showers without water, and people without homes and maybe even without food.

All I am saying is that we need these factors to be included in the current Aussie Senate debate on the $42 billion dollar package in light of current disasters.

It is also very worrying that we still have a good two months of fire danger weather ahead of us.

I am beginning to wonder how caveman survived at all, and I would like to avoid finding that out firsthand.

Keep safe Graeme, and thanks again for extending the discussion with your and your wife's excellent points.

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