Looks like it's probably over around here, but they're still having a hard time in other places. The last couple of days have been cool and the strong winds never came. It rained heavily around here and across the Bunyip fire yesterday, but it's still not under control; just diminished. Unfortunately the storms that brought the rain here delivered no rain in other areas, so lightning strikes (about 60 according to the news) started more fires across Victoria. The unfortunate thing is that when you hope for the wind to blow in a different direction, so that the fire doesn't come your way, you're also hoping that it will blow towards someone else.
It's difficult for some of us to really understand what it must be like for you folks; we have friends in WA who had a lucky escape a few years ago, although their neighbour (a little way away) wasn't so fortunate (but fortunately only damage to property). They recently travelled (by road) to the general area around Melbourne and I was getting regular updates and photos etc etc..
We sometimes moan over here that we'd like it to be warmer but I gather that the aircon units don't work too well during power outages and even when working some struggle with the temperatures you've experienced in recent months. That's not a problem that we experience.
Best of luck.
Thanks Tony. Luck was what we needed. Fortunately, no lives have been lost this time and only a dozen or so houses, although for others it isn't over yet. I'm lucky in that we are off-grid, and rely on solar panels and large batteries. So the aircon kept running but struggled somewhat. However, I did have to turn it off last weekend as the overhead smoke cloud was so thick that it obscured the sun for much of the day, and it was like a very dull mid-winter's day. I didn't want to put unnecessary strain on the batteries and it wasn't worth starting the backup generator, an ancient mid-60s air-cooled Lister twin cylinder diesel.
Although we usually have a bushfire of some sort somewhere in this part of the country, from mid-summer to mid-autumn every year, it's only every decade or two that we have a really bad unmanageable one. But they will probably become more frequent now. You need to bear in mind that our official seasons are a European approximation. This is why they've been neatly rounded off to complete months and have nothing to do with the summer or winter solstice. All over the country, our official summer starts on the 1st of December, autumn on the 1st of March, winter on the 1st of May, and spring on the 1st of August. The aborigines on the other hand, recognised 6 season, which is more accurate than our adopted European seasonal descriptions. Here's a link that might explain what I mean. This applies to Vince's and my part of the country. www.bom.gov.au/iwk/calendars/gariwerd.shtml
The most serious bushfires in Victoria over the past 100 years were ... 1926 - Black Sunday. 60 fatalities during February and March. 1939 - Black Friday. 71 fatalities and 650 homes destroyed in January. 1983 - Ash Wednesday. 75 fatalities and 1,900 homes destroyed in February. (Also involved parts of Sth. Aust.) 2009 - Black Saturday. 173 fatalities and more than 2,000 homes destroyed in February. 2019 - ______________? To be advised. No fatalities so far, and there probably won't be. We learn more each time.
So you can understand why some of us get a bit pissed off when stupid retailers here decide that it's clever to copy an American tradition and hold Black Friday and Black Saturday sales, that have no relevance at all here. We don't celebrate American Thanksgiving. (Although retailers have pushed us into Halloween over the past couple of decades.)
These fires tend to be named retrospectively and unofficially to begin with. It's just the name that the public and the press begin to refer to them by, based on the day they started. The odd one out is Ash Wednesday, which actually started on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
A familiar feature of the bush in the Gippsland region of eastern Victoria from when I was a child through until probably the late '70s, were the stark white 'skeletons' of the dead gumtrees dating back to 1939, towering above the tall regrowth, wherever you looked. The native forests here are made to burn, and burn regularly. The ecosystem depends on it. The gumtrees usually survive the minor fires, and many species' seeds won't germinate until they are baked by a bushfire. And then there is the eucalyptus oil in so many of our large trees. It's flammable and is vaporised into the air as the fire front sweeps through the forest. When you look out over the top of an area of bushland on a hot day, the air isn't clear. There's a bluish haze in the air. That's eucalyptus vapour. This is why the section of the Great Dividing Range inland from Sydney was named the Blue Mountains.
The regeneration after a fire is incredible to see. The aborigines used to routinely set fire to areas of bush to bring about this regeneration if lightning hadn't done it for them. The fires cleaned up the dry bark and leaf litter on the ground, and this allowed the growth of dormant seeds and grass to get a chance. This regrowth meant more grazing animals for them to hunt. But we Europeans messed all this up in modern times by extinguishing fires as soon as possible to minimise the destruction. So now when we have a fire, it can be horrific due to the accumulated fuel on the forest floor. We learnt the error of our ways maybe 50 years ago, and periodic deliberately lit "controlled cool burns" where introduced by the relevant government department. But this is a tricky thing. If you do it when it is too warm and dry, it can get out of control. If you try to do it when it is too damp and cool, it doesn't burn. And then the weather can change unexpectedly, contrary to what was forecast, and it can all go pear-shaped.
In this part of the country, if the wind is coming from the north or northwest, it's coming from the hot desert areas of the interior of the continent. If it's coming from the southwest or south, it's coming from the Southern Ocean and/or Antarctica. If it's coming from the northeast, it's coming from the humid tropics. They say that if you don't like the weather in Melbourne, just wait a couple of hours. Four seasons in one day. It's not quite that bad, but sometimes it is. For example, apart from 'our' current fire in the Bunyip State Forest to our west, there are other bushfires burning in various places around the nearby ski 'resort' on Mt. Baw Baw. It's about an hour's drive from here to the northeast. The village and access roads to it were closed a couple of days ago and everyone evacuated. There is a fire quite close to it on its eastern flank, but that is under control now. There is a big and very serious one a bit further to its east, a small one to its north, and a largish one to the south. And with all this happening, it snowed on Mt. Baw Baw yesterday.
Robin Hood and Drouin West are just to our west. Jindivick is to the north.
The Robin Hood Inn is an old pub from the 1880s. It was a horse changing point for Cobb & Co. stagecoaches travelling from Melbourne to East Gippsland. It's actually at Drouin West, but the emergency authorities have begun referring to it as if it is a town. Not very helpful. Gippsland was named after Major Sir George Gipps who was born in Kent and was governor of the colonies of New South Wales and New Zealand in the mid-1800s. NZ was administered from NSW for a while.
Well it's all over in West Gippsland until next time, with all the fires out or under control. Still a few in other parts of the state however. Then the massive clean-up begins. We've had mild weather for over a week now, but little rain. The air is full of smoke today due to an easterly breeze bringing it from the fires to our east, which are also mostly under control. The last count I heard for the Bunyip fire was 29 homes lost, plus 67 out-buildings and sheds. There will also be miles of farm fencing to be replaced.
I attended the AGM of my local car club last Thursday evening. We were talking about the fires and our various situations. I mentioned to a friend that the Bunyip fire must have come close to an elderly friend of his, who lived near the southern tip of the Bunyip fire's reach, just off the main road to Melbourne. We had actually dropped in to see him late last year. He told me that his friend had lost his large shed, but the house and everything else had escaped unscathed. In that shed was a classic Maserati and another classic car. (I can't remember what it was). Both totally destroyed beyond recognition. He showed me a photo. The remains of the second car were impossible to recognise as ever being a car. Their Honda CRV parked outside the shed, suffered only a melted tail-light lens, and drooped plastic roof bars.
But on the positive side, these fires were nowhere near as bad as Black Saturday 10 years ago, due mainly to the weather. And as far as I know, no lives lost this time, in contrast to the 173 people back then. That's a large number, but still just statistics when you read it. Late in 2008 I was doing some work for a firm of architects who were working on the redevelopment of some labs at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Coroner’s Court Complex in Melbourne. The project was put on hold until a few weeks after the Black Saturday bushfires, because the staff were very busy. When I next visited the site, a huge expanse of lawn beside the building was covered in 20' refrigerated shipping containers. There were too many victims. There wasn't enough room in the mortuary. Suddenly 173 had a different meaning.