Aussie fires get personal

in #thoughtslast year (edited)

Some of you may know that a vast amount of Australia is experiencing raging wildfires and have done so for several weeks now. I don't know why this season is so bad for fires, but it seems far worse than normal - It's only the start of summer too. src

Hundreds and hundreds of families have lost their homes and loss to stock, infrastructure and wildlife has been catastrophic. Only today I heard that Kangaroo Island, in my own State of South Australia is being evacuated and a couple people have died in the last 24 hours. Over half of it has burned out.

Some 12 million+ acres has been burned out so far. As a comparison the California fires of 2018 burned out 2 million acres - Ours are still burning too. It's bad.

Until now as personal as it has got to me is my city being covered in smoke and a few mates being on the frontline fighting the fires in the Adelaide Hills; Today that changed though.

My sister and her partner live in Sydney; She's safe so that's all good. However her partners parents live in a place called Illaroo, about 165 kilometres south from Sydney and some 16 kilometres from Nowra. They have been under watch and act order for a few days and had the car fuelled and packed ready to leave; Their plan? As soon as the fire-front crossed the Shoalhaven River get the hell out.

Unfortunately their worst fears came to life and the fire skipped over the river and headed their way. Time to leave.

You can see an image from the NSW RFS website below showing the fire near Nowra in dark green. Illaroo sits right at the top right within the fire zone.

The second image below shows New South Wales in its entirety and the fires still burning there at the time of this post being written. As you can see there's a lot of fires still out of control.

Back to my sisters partners parents...Today they found out that their house has been burned to the ground along with everything they own within it, other than what they had packed in the vehicle. It's all gone. Forever.

They also lost loads of chickens [they are breeders] and 3 horses. They got the dogs but the cat bolted and they couldn't find it. More heartache to add into the mix as if losing the house wasn't enough.

Worse, was that J's dad was out on an appliance at the time [fire truck] and contact had been lost. No one jumped to conclusions however it was a fairly nerve-wracking time. Fortunately a few hours later word came through that he is fine and that, whilst surrounded by fire and in danger, their training kicked in and they made it through. Let's keep in mind these are volunteer firefighters, not professionals. They don't get paid to be there, and whilst they're out saving people's homes sometimes they lose their own, as in this case.

I have an idea about what it feels like to loose everything one has as my mother in-laws house burned to the ground 17 years ago; A fire in which she lost everything except for her pyjamas, dog and purse. It's devastating and even years later affects a person; The possessions from an entire life destroyed all the physical memories and keepsakes...But one won't truly know until it happens to them I guess.

I don't know how they're all feeling right now although my sister is sending a string of messages though to keep us updated. It feels very personal now though, you know, the fires, and I wonder about the thousands of other people affected by them either directly or indirectly.

Aussies are tough bastards, resilient; It's in our nature. However putting myself in the shoes of a person who just lost their house and everything in it...Sort of breaks down the resolve a little. The thing is that we (collectively) will roll out our sleeves and pitch in to help...Except for the assholes deliberately lighting the fires or looting...They deserve to be shot. [Too much you think? Ah well, my blog, my opinion.]

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For any looking for more information you can follow the state by State links for the country fire services below.

South Australia
New South Wales
Western Australia
Northern Territory


Not good news mate sorry to hear that they lost so much. Unfortunately so many are going through the same thing such a sad state of affairs these fire's.

Yeah, I know...There's a bit to sort out. Insurance will cover it but that's not really going to bring everything back is it? Tragic fire season so far huh? Kind makes me wonder what it's all about...They talk about global warming and all but I don't know...

Money does not bring back the memories, photos etc. Hope they will be okay. The NSW government reduce fire service funding by a large amount can't be helping the situation.

Yes, all States doing that I think. Maybe they'll think again when this season is all done and dusted. You know the CFS told me I can't join as I live 5km too far from the station. And yet they are desperate for volunteers with the average age of blokes on trucks being 60 years old. Mental.

Also, I heard the Greenies don't allow a scrub clearing in a lot of parks these days, government supported. More dead undergrowth means more fuel and less accessibility...Maybe a factor in the fires this season?

Yep, the mementos and keepsakes...Can't ever be replaced. My mother in law had one of my dad's paintings in her house when it burned...It's not the few thousand dollars it was worth, it's the fact he will never paint another. Stuff like that is irreplaceable.

Photos should be scanned and stored in a cloud anyway. Losing keepsakes and pets is tough.

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Yes the greenies have stopped a lot of burn offs and as you say the fuel load builds up and becomes a big hazard.

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Not sure if that's what made this summer so bad, but bears some consideration maybe?

I don't recall it ever being this bad. Even the best prepared home owners are losing everything. Its amazing we haven't had more deaths, considering the scale of this thing.

Yeah, I think the best that one can do it to leave and hope there's a house later on. Must be a difficult decision. But not much choice. Seems to be particularly widespread and deadly this year though right?

Starting to think these guys have the right idea.

That'd be cool!

You can shoot them, just don't kill them unless you're going to eat them.

I've read so many of those cases where the fireies have been out defending homes and theirs burns down and it's so unfair I don't even have words. Sorry they lost everything that wasn't in the car :<

Yes, pretty tragic stuff.

I'm seeing new about this for a few days. it's very unfortunate. I hope your relatives are and will be safe.

Yes, been going for weeks now...It's been pretty bad. Thanks for commenting. 😊

Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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Thank you.

Your sister and BIL will be compensated by their insurance company? And for their belongings in the house too? Even so they will have a fair bit of house hunting and shopping to do before their lives are back to normal again.

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If they are insured correctly insurance companies will pay out. If not insured then not. Still, no amount of money could replace lost items like wedding and children's photos, documents of a personal nature, and mementos or keepsakes right? Imagine someone escorting you, just you and your immediate family, from your house and nothing else...Then burning it down. That's what they have lost.

Still, there people worse off than this around the place so it's all good.

All such documents should be scanned and stored in a cloud.

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So compassionate of you.

Just a piece of helpful advice to anyone reading this. Obviously too late for your sister's family but I'm wasn't talking to them, was I?

Much appreciated by those reading, I'm sure. Thanks.

It is really terrible to hear.

For the be prepared side though, I think it is time anyone in a fire area bought one of those underground storage things for valuables that they can fill as fires approach and then leave. Have a strategy at least.

Most have zero strategy. Quite pathetic really. People also leave it until far too late to leave. Still, that's the way of it.

All of those who volunteer to fight fires are special people, and they deserve all the credit in the world.
tough times and it sounds like it is only getting worse.
I hope everything turns out alright for your sister and her partner's parents. It had to be very scary not being able to get in touch with them for those few hours.
It is unthinkable that as people are putting out fires, risking their lives, you have assholes starting fires and looting.
They deserve to be shot. Totally agree, or possible tied to a stake and burned to death.
I hope things settle down for all Aussies, and life can return to normal.
Stay safe my friend.

Yes, must have been tough for them but it worked out fortunately. Hopefully things settle down soon, it's been our of control for far too long. Thanks for your kind words.

I am so sorry for your sister’s partner and his parents. Thank goodness they got out alive, but what a completely life changing tragedy. And their poor animals... 😪 Just terrible.

I think it is really difficult for people who haven’t been to Australia to grasp the sense of scale of the fires. I don’t mean that in just size. There is a sense of place that is being uprooted by the fires too. Not only do you look around and see fires in every direction, but it also destroying or threatening areas that are important to the shared experience of being Australian. Like along with the people who live on the coast year round, how many Canberrans and Sydneysiders have spent summer after summer after summer enjoying and making memories in these gorgeous towns? Then you hear oh, Thredbo and the mountains where everyone skis in the winter and where much of the power for Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney is generated is being evacuated and the power grid is under strain. Then just when your mind can’t rap around what is happening in the East you hear Kangaroo Island is up in flames too.

It is so incomprehensible and heartbreaking.

Obviously I don’t live in Aus anymore, but less than two months ago we stayed in and drove through all of these towns on the south coast that are devastated now. And I think about the people we met, and the quaint main streets we visited, and the smell of the eucalyptus forests we drove through, and the shop dog we met at the bookstore in Cobargo... the sadness I feel from far away for these people, places and creatures is overwhelming. I can’t even comprehend what it would be like for for the people who are in the midst of living their lives in these areas.

Stay safe. I hope all of your people remain safe. And again I am so sorry for your sister’s partner and his family.

Hey there, thanks for your reply. I don't think I could have said it better than you have here...Spoken like someone who has been here, as you have, seen these areas and understands. Thank you.

Yes, it is devastating and so difficult for people that haven't been here to understand. I think that's why people have trouble commenting on posts like this, however most have been very supportive of course.

We will get through it as a country and whilst there's a lot of anger and emotion at the moment, some of which is being aimed at the Prime Minister and the government, eventually the work of clearing away the rubble and rebuilding will start. Aussies are good at just getting on with it.

Thanks again and I hope you have a great weekend.

Except for the assholes deliberately lighting the fires or looting...They deserve to be shot.

Not far enough. Throw them into the fires as it takes a certain breed of scumbag to take advantage of a situation like this while other are losing everything including lives. This is the time to do a bit more and help each other out when things are at their worst.

Hope everybody stays safe and best wishes on all of the family from Ireland.

I agree with you...We don't need people like that in society...And yet they exist and seem to make it through the court system coming out the other end with home detention, good behaviour bonds and community service. As testament to ineffectiveness of the government.

Thanks for your reply, much appreciated.

Those poor horses and chickens. Especially the horses, those poor things. I hope you and your wife are well out of the way of trouble.

Hey there. Thanks, yeah it's pretty tragic and the family are yet to decided certain things. Of course insurance will recompense them however insurance doesn't pay for the emotional strain.

We have fires here in South Australia however I am far enough away not to have to worry. Thanks for saying so though.

It's absolutely crazy at the moment. I lnow how worried we were when my father in law's place was under threat last year, I can't imagine the devastation of actually losing everything.

As much as insurance and community support can do, there is a lot that camnot be replaced.

I hope your Sister's in laws are OK. The main thing is that they are safe

I agree yes, the main thing is that they are safe; Which they are, so thank you. The emotional cost of devastation like this can never be paid out by insurance as you say. It's a concern. For J's parents it is unlikely they will resume their life in the same manner, certainly their age has something to do with that. Still, it's all undecided. Time will tell.

Thanks for your reply and best wishes.

Sorry to hear the losses. My young family lives just North of there and we cleared out (again) on Saturday. I've been a city lad for my entire life until we went rural last April so it's been a pretty steep (and harsh) learning curve for us.

Oh wow! Good that you got out and that you're safe. Many didn't, or left it until late in the piece. Moving to a rural are is great, but yes, can be a steep learning curve. The worst fire season on record is sure to teach you some skills and I'm sure you'll be fully-prepared for the next.

Thanks for responding.

Stay safe, keep vigilant.

My prayers go out for each and every firefighter risking their lives and to those who have lost everything in these fires....

Yes, they are incredible...Everyday people putting it all on the line for others...For nothing more than a sandwich or sausage in a piece of bread with sauce (ketchup) on it, and a few gulps of water.

At the end of it all, they'll go back to the nondescript lives as someone's neighbour without an accolade or reward. There's 5,000 ADF personnel out there too. (Australian Defence Force)

The silent heroes...God bless them.

Congratulations @galenkp!
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Thank you.

You're welcome @galenkp

Horrible! I don't know what to say honestly, I can't even imagine how that must feel for them. I'm glad to read they got away safe themselves and most of it is "stuff" but these animals, poor things. I hope they didn't suffer too much, but maybe it's best to not think about it, as there was clearly nothing they could have done about it. Nature at its roughest and most dangerous. :(

Australia has always been a brutal place, harsh and tough on people. That's why Australians themselves are like they are. The fires are still burning and not getting much better to be honest. But we will battle on as a country and get it sorted.

Those animals, and millions others, have probably suffered unfortunately; I can't imagine burning to death is pleasant for an animal, any more than it would be for a human. It's pretty sad really. Maybe best not to think of it too much.

Anyway yes, houses are just things so a good thing not more lives have been lost.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.

I didn't know that (that the people are harsh and tough) honestly, I have nothing but nice contact with people in Australia, but I think a big part of them moved there so that may be the difference. For some reason, my feeling still tells me that eventually (maybe in 10 years but still) we will end up living in Australia. But these fires and stuff are somethings I never realized.

I think you are right, they must have suffered, I don't want to think about it too much as I seriosuly can cry about it even though they aren't my animals. I've seen a video of a koala screaming from the pain and it's still in my head. I have more trouble processing animals getting killed like that, than humans. While it's super horrible for them as well.

I feel ashamed as I read part of the post earlier when you linked it in a comment and forgot to comment so that's why I came back ;) Take care!

You misunderstood...Not harsh in temperament towards others . Tenacious...Hard working and with great perseverance...when adversity strikes, such as with the fires. We live in a harsh country that hits hard when it hits...And we are a strong people, unflappable...Tough of spirt, and strong in will, quick to rebound and to help a mate in need.

Hopefully that makes it clearer.

Yes, and I like that!

I dont watch news, but somehow I came across some posts on Facebook and feel really deprssed about it. It is very sad to see people losing their homes and animals dying. And instead of stopping this, other countries are planning for wars :(

Agreed, it is pretty tragic for those involved and the implications for the greater community are much broader than just some fires to put out or homes lost. Very tragic.

Looters definitely deserve to be shot sir galenkp, so sorry to hear about them losing their place and the animals! Are these all drought areas?

Yes, the drought affects most of the country. It's been pretty brutal. The problem is that when it rains it'll come down hard and we'll probably end up with flooding...It's a land of extremes here I'm afraid, but we make it liveable as best we can.

I keep thinking that someone will come up with homes that can be built so they are entirely fire-proof but no one has yet but they sure need those in CA and Australia.

Yes I agree...I think the way manufacturers look for cheaper and cheaper product less focus gets put on functionality. It's a shame. Houses are full of plastics and synthetics mainly.

A cryin shame.