A Burnt Country

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Vic Emergency App Friday Jan 4, 2020

This post is for my overseas friends who have been checking in to see how we’re managing with the bushfires.

The state of play in Australia is grim. To put it in perspective, the 2018 California fires burned 2 million acres. The Amazon fires were around 6 million. Since September, the Australian fires have burnt 14.6 million acres and we are just one month into summer. Eighteen people have died, half a billion animals have perished, over 1400 homes destroyed.

NSW is the worst-hit state. Our state, Victoria, is also in terrible trouble, particularly in the east and north-east. Massive areas have been evacuated. Melbourne, our capital, isn’t in danger from the blaze, but smoke now covers the entire state (smoke has reached New Zealand from the NSW fires) and air quality reached hazardous levels in our suburb yesterday.

The photo above is from the Vic Emergency App, which provides advice and updates for fires and other dire situations. You can see that the east of the state is blanketed in warnings and there are isolated incidents across the rest of the state.

Our holiday house in Mansfield is on the edge of the danger zone. We were up there until Friday and decided to get out as yesterday was expected to be one of the worst fire danger days. We’re hoping, given that we’re in an area surrounded by farmland and a lake that we’ll escape the worst of it, but there’s no telling. That area and others have been declared a state of disaster.

A dear friend has been evacuated from her home in NSW and won’t be allowed back for a few days to see whether her house has been saved. (Jan 6: she’s back home and besides burnt leaves and ash, her house is fine!) My brother-in-law’s business partner has lost his farm and can’t return to find out whether his horses are alive. (Jan 6: The horses are okay! His entire property was gone except their favorite valley and stables.) So many people have been impacted like this or worse. Meanwhile, our firefighters are battling the blaze. We are so grateful for their incredible courage and our hearts go out to their families as they wait for their loved ones to return.

Relief funds have been set up and celebrities such as Pink, Nicole Kidman, Celeste Barber, even the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have given support and made significant donations to local firefighting organizations. The US, Canadian, French, NZ governments and more have sent personnel.

If you would like to help, here are some options:

The Salvation Army
The Red Cross
St Vincent de Paul Society Vic Appeal
Foodbank
Wires, to help wildlife
Country Fire Association, Vic

Thank you for checking in with us. Yes, we are safe, but our hearts are aching for our countrymen who have lost family members, their homes or are currently waiting to find out. I will update as the situation, hopefully, improves.

Update January 6, 2020: we’ve had a reprieve from the heat, and many fire warnings have been downgraded, but conditions are set to heat up again by Thursday, so emergency services are preparing for action. Smoke from Tasmanian fires is now blanketing Melbourne, so air quality is bad despite some rain.

Next time: Kirsten Alexander on Riptides, her latest novel set in Queensland in the 1970s.

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