Australian bushfires/wildfires 2019
Old 12-05-2019   #1
lynnb
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Australian bushfires/wildfires 2019

The east coast of Australia is burning, reminiscent of California's experience. This year the fire season started early, in September - by early December 2019 large tracts in four States have been burnt, from Queensland through New South Wales to Victoria and South Australia. The geographic spread of land where there are fire grounds is roughly equivalent to an area the size of the US East Coast/Appalachians around to Texas/Oklahoma. Firefighters from around the world have come to help out. A record drought has left the country tinder dry.

In Sydney where I live, the air is thick with smoke from the fires. Yesterday the sun was a deep red orb through the smoke and visibility was down to about a mile. It's been like this for weeks. The air quality mostly "poor" to "hazardous" with people encouraged to stay indoors with windows closed. Some days are better than others. Cars are covered in fine ash from fires 40 miles away. One fire of eight burning at emergency level west of Sydney has burnt out 250,000 hectares and is still out of control in rugged mountain country. Communities on Sydney's fringes are battling blazes and homes are being lost - so far around 700 in NSW alone. Tragically some lives also lost, mostly from small communities where access gets blocked by the advancing fires.

Nick Moir is an award-winning photojournalist with the Sydney Morning Herald. The SMH is normally behind a paywall, but access is free for stories and pictures related to the current bushfire emergency. Yesterday Nick spent time with firefighters at the Green Wattle Creek fire, on Sydney's south-western fringe. You can see some of his amazing pictures of firefighters battling the blaze here and here. There is further coverage and pictures on the SMH website.
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Old 12-05-2019   #2
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Those photos are really good, it's not often you see proper photojournalism in Australia's media. I've come home to QLD for the week and it's smoggy everywhere, and the heat is pretty unbearable.

The guys out there fighting the blazes are incredible.
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Old 12-05-2019   #3
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The Bangala Creek fire in far northern NSW claimed my ancestral home today. I still haven't heard from some relatives, but they should be ok. The whole area was tinder dry and there had been no fire since 2000, so the fuel load was high. The fire has burned >100km2 and is still totally out of control. I am very glad I am far away; I'd be one of those guys in a yellow suit out fighting it if I was there (yes, I'm trained and experienced).

My kind of fire:


Marty
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Old 12-05-2019   #4
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While all are good, the shoot of the man in his driveway is the most powerful.

Best of luck, stay safe and healthy.

Thanks for enlightening us to a story I haven't seen or heard anywhere but national public radio.

B2 (;-<
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Old 12-05-2019   #5
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Great images. I live in the hills behind Brisbane in a semi rural area on the D'agular Range ... we are tinder dry and the area is heavily vegetated. We are all on edge ... I have never experienced heat and dry combined with occasional powerful winds on this scale in my life and it ain't comforting!
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Old 12-05-2019   #6
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Thanks for the link. It's hard, in this rather rain soaked country to visualise and experience such infernos. The courage of those fighting this threat is magnificent, but my primary emotion is hoping that no-one here or in the areas affected has to go through such devastation and fear.
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Old 12-05-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith View Post
Great images. I live in the hills behind Brisbane in a semi rural area on the D'agular Range ... we are tinder dry and the area is heavily vegetated. We are all on edge ... I have never experienced heat and dry combined with occasional powerful winds on this scale in my life and it ain't comforting!
I was wondering how you were going Keith. Fingers crossed! Do you have arrangements to evacuate the animals at short notice? Maybe not the python

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The Bangala Creek fire in far northern NSW claimed my ancestral home today. I still haven't heard from some relatives, but they should be ok. The whole area was tinder dry and there had been no fire since 2000, so the fuel load was high. The fire has burned >100km2 and is still totally out of control. I am very glad I am far away; I'd be one of those guys in a yellow suit out fighting it if I was there (yes, I'm trained and experienced).
Marty
Sorry to hear about that Marty. Hope everyone's OK.
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Old 12-05-2019   #8
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I was wondering how you were going Keith. Fingers crossed! Do you have arrangements to evacuate the animals at short notice? Maybe not the python



Sorry to hear about that Marty. Hope everyone's OK.

We sort of have a plan and Jaffa is the only large animal here at the moment. They have a warning siren a few ks from here and our local RFB people are pretty good! It's mainly luck you need in my opinion!
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Old 12-06-2019   #9
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My property came within 8km of the Torrington bushfire in northern New England in New South Wales, over 75000 hectares with the wind blowing towards us at 60km/h.
We were evacuated and working out what to take was an interesting exercise.
I took all my cameras, albums, hard drives and books, my wife took jewellery and lp's.
we did not even think of taking the telly, never watch it!

We had 6hrs warning and took 3 4wd loads.
Very scary stuff and 10 nearby houses were destroyed, ours thankfully survived and we live to photograph another day.......
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Old 12-06-2019   #10
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Can people insure their property against these fires?
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Old 12-06-2019   #11
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Originally Posted by Out to Lunch View Post
Can people insure their property against these fires?
I am not sure of the present situation but in the past, yes insurance has been possible though there were moves to introduce higher premiums or other restrictions in some high risk areas (e.g. forested areas).
The ironic thing is that it has generally been almost impossible to get insurance for flooding caused by water rising up (not flooding caused by damaged roof etc). The reason being that floodplains, low lying areas etc are bound to flood sometimes and hence insurers do not wish to insure such risks on the grounds that they are not risks but certainties. And other people situated elsewhere do not need it. Though I always thought this to be unfair. This situation contributed to a major civil law case concluded against Qld government for misadministering the management of dams water release protocols contributing to major floods during heavy rains some years ago.
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Old 12-06-2019   #12
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Thanks Lynn, I hadn’t seen those shots. A bunch of my colleagues from Tas Parks have been deployed in NSW and it sounds pretty grim.

Bizarrely ‘summer’ in the Tasmania high country has been the opposite. Snow and rain most days, and walkers rescued from near a Cradle Mountain today with hypothermia and waist deep snow..
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Old 12-21-2019   #13
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There is a new picture gallery from the fires in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Some of the pictures are quite confronting in the fire's ferocity. The "mega-fire" to the west of Sydney now covers >350,000 hectares, making it the biggest single mid-latitude fire in recorded history, according to reports. Only large fires in Siberia, Alaska and Canada have been bigger. Currently there are over 100 active fires in New South Wales alone. Thick smoke has been blanketing Sydney, Canberra and regional towns. Several major highways and many secondary roads are closed.
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Old 12-21-2019   #14
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This is really scary, Lynn. Stay safe.
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Old 12-21-2019   #15
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A very impressive series, I just went through them with my wife. It's terriffic.
Thanks Lynn for the link.
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Bushfires in Australia
Old 01-03-2020   #16
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Bushfires in Australia

Australia has the tragic tendency to have spontaneous and devastating bushfires. While these usually occur in rural and country areas, some suburban areas that have a lot of parkland and trees can also be affected. Right now, fires are raging all over Australia, with human and animal lives lost, and properties destroyed. Even in the suburbs, a pall of smoke clouds the skies.

In 2006, bushfires caused the sun to turn red, and cast a grey haze over everything. Not even famed St Kilda Beach was safe.


F30 - St Kilda Pier Smoke by Archiver, on Flickr

In 2009, the summer heat brought destruction to an entire country town in Victoria called Marysville. Residents rallied to rebuild, including the local sculptor, Bruno Torfs. By the time I went back in early 2010, the land had been cleared and growth was returning to blackened forests.


CV35/1.4 - She rides in memory by Archiver, on Flickr


DP1 - Green Not Black by Archiver, on Flickr

Places where buildings once stood were bare, marked only by the signs of businesses lost.


5DII - The Cumberland Slumbers by Archiver, on Flickr

I was going to make a trip to Canberra this month, but this has been cancelled due to smoke pollution being 22 times the hazard warning level. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
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Old 01-03-2020   #17
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In California we have the same. I have been watching reports on our TV which is spotty and unhelpful, but I get it, it isn't going well. We are all thinking good thoughts for your country.
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Old 01-03-2020   #18
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I live in Adelaide, South Australia and we in this state have also have been afflicted quite badly though not to the extent of those living in the eastern states. Many homes and farm etc properties were lost a week or so back in the Adelaide Hills to our east and large out of control fires are still causing casualties (with two more people reported dead today) and burning out of control on Kangaroo Island, an island off the south coast of SA and third largest island in Australia. Reportedly one third of that island has now burned.

I am safe enough, living within 4 km of the centre of Adelaide and in any event there is no present threat to this city but last night was difficult enough (though small beer compared to what others have suffered). A southerly change carried smoke from the KI fires into the city a distance of about 200 km, and as with other cities (including Sydney a week or so past) air was badly polluted last night. I awoke coughing with the feeling of finding it difficult to breathe and the house was full of fine particulate matter - essentially fine ash - this morning. Minor for us - a mere suggestion of how bad it has been and still is for many. We have such fires from time to time sadly, as does for example California with our legacy of cool wet winters and hot dry summers which dry the soil and vegetation out drastically making perfect conditions for fires to break out and ravage the country side. Sadly many state governments have also dropped the ball and given into urban based pressure not to have regular precautionary burning of forest litter in cooler months to get rid of the build up of fuel load that contributes to the danger when fire comes. As it always does. This vastly increases intensity of such fires making them impossible to control as there is just too much heat - a fact which is driven home when looking at burned out cars with rivulets of melted aluminium from wheels that have melted from the furnace-like heat.
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Old 01-03-2020   #19
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In California we have the same. I have been watching reports on our TV which is spotty and unhelpful, but I get it, it isn't going well. We are all thinking good thoughts for your country.
Not to diminish what happened in California, but to give a context of the scale of what is happening in Australia at the moment... The 2018 fires in California burnt approx. 2 million acres. Thus far, the fires this season in Australia have burnt more than 12 million acres. The scary thing is that the 'normal' bushfire season starts now. Ie. there's no expectation that conditions will improve for months, and it's highly probably that new fires will start before the season is done.

This was a shot I took last summer, from Cape Pillar in the south-east of Tasmania. It was terrifying watching this lightning storm cross a tinder dry landscape and knowing what it meant.



This was from the same spot 10 days later. The fires wouldn't stop until well into autumn.



This season we've been lucky in Tasmania. There's a handful of fires going but nothing to the scale of what's happening on the Mainland.

We had a scare a couple of days ago when a fire started at Glenlusk, which is only a couple of kilometres from the suburbs of Hobart, and right next to the extensive bushland of Wellington Park. The Tasmanian Fire Service hit it with 16 units and a bunch of aircraft and managed to extinguish it before it got established. Fingers crossed for the rest of summer...
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Old 01-04-2020   #20
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It's been very smoky in Canberra for the last two weeks or so. Air quality has apparently been rated as amongst the worst in the world!



BW536003

by Another Chris, on Flickr
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Old 01-04-2020   #21
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[IMG]

BW538_020 by Another Chris, on Flickr[/IMG]
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Old 01-04-2020   #22
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The picture gallery in the Sydney Morning Herald has been updated as the fires progress. These fires are unlike anything seen before in their scope and ferocity.

This picture has become one of the most viewed images of the fire disaster.
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Old 01-04-2020   #23
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Our house didn't burn, but the fire got close to about 100 metres thanks to the Country Fire Service at Charleston. My two other close friends lost their house in Lobethal, South Australia. I've taken more photos of the devastation, but I may share these later when the situation is more calm.





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Old 01-04-2020   #24
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Thoughts and prayers to all of you.
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Old 01-04-2020   #25
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Absolutely terrifying - pray for a slow steady rain that last for days.
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Old 01-04-2020   #26
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The picture gallery in the Sydney Morning Herald has been updated as the fires progress. These fires are unlike anything seen before in their scope and ferocity.

This picture has become one of the most viewed images of the fire disaster.
Lynnb hi. Just my "two bob's" worth. There has been some commentary from officials (including the Prime Minister) and experts in the field that the intensity of the fires have been due in large part to the huge fuel load that has built up due to poor management over perhaps 20-30 years or more. Made worse no doubt by town and suburban encroachment around the fringes of forests national parks etc.

In many states, regulations have been introduced by states and shires preventing farmers and government authorities from burning off forest ground litter during cooler wetter months specifically to prevent this kind of thing on the grounds that it is bad for the environment. One expert fire investigator who often gives expert evidence in such cases was interviewed on TV last night and though he was careful in his wording not to point the finger at specific groups he was very explicit in saying this is the key problem. When dried out leaf litter, tree branches, twigs, uncut grasses etc are allowed to build up in deep drifts across forest floors and grasslands then this is all there to fuel fires when they come and we in Australia as I am sure you understand know they will always come sooner or later. Turning huge swathes of Australia into national parks may be nice and green and environmentally friendly, but it seems to me that authorities who fail to then manage those areas properly for the inevitable fires that must follow are without a doubt culpable. And they are culpable too when these regulations prohibit farmers from even managing the problem on their own land.

Once more, there will be post catastrophe investigations and I am sure that just as in the past, acolytes of the green faith will point their fingers at "global warming" and even, as they also have in the past, victim-blame the very people who were burned out for having the temerity to want to live in and around beautiful "environmentally sensitive" areas. Governments will tut-tut and hand out money to help people rebuild and huge reports will be written. Then based on past experience nothing will be done. And it will all happen again when fuel load builds up and fires come again. Just like it has in the past.

I hope that at least one thing comes out of the lessons and that proper management practices are put into place. But I will not hold my breath. Governments love to talk, talk, talk and also love to divert attention away from their own failings inaction and incompetence. (Just look already at state Premiers who are responsible for this area of legislation who are already saying it's the Federal government's fault - for exactly what I do not know given they have the necessary powers, not federal authorities.)

This article says it all. It was written in 2009 after the last Victorian state fire disaster in 2008. The Royal Commission it refers to has achieved nothing.

https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/200...H2QBAmMLLo5Ro4
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Old 01-04-2020   #27
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I almost lost my home in July of 2018 to a wildfire and nothing like we are seeing now. A few weeks later a friend of mine ( a photographer ) lost his home in Malibu to that fire. Then he lost a family friend in the Paradise fire. Even the owner of this site had a fire come very close to his area of a business that likely helps to sustain this site.

We are about 20-30 years too late in correcting our bad behavior in terms of this planet's ability to support current forms of life. This will get worse, much much worse. This is not political, that is a poor excuse to suppress the discussion of the obvious and I won't tolerate it.

When ever someone now asks me where I am from or where I was born, I tell them Earth. And when someone asks me what nationality I am, I say I am a human being. Get the picture folks? Get the real and big picture that in this decade we will see that we have been wrong about what our grandchildren will inherit in terms of our inaction. It's not then, it is now and it has barely just begun.
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Old 01-04-2020   #28
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This article says it all. It was written in 2009 after the last Victorian state fire disaster in 2008. The Royal Commission it refers to has achieved nothing.

https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/200...H2QBAmMLLo5Ro4
Peter, you know the rules on politics here, and that link is nothing if not a political rant.

Don't be that guy.
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Old 01-04-2020   #29
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Hi Peter, I have read accounts from the earliest days of the colony which describe the Sydney surrounds as "like parkland", with little fuel at ground level compared to today - achieved by the traditional Aboriginal land management practice of systematic patchwork burning. A pity these lessons have not been heeded over the past 250 years, although I seem to remember reading recently that these practices are being re-evaluated.

As to our rural roads being death-traps, I fully agree with the article. Friends of mine living in rural NSW have long said how stupid it is to prohibit clearing fuel loads along country roads.
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Old 01-04-2020   #30
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Hi Peter, I have read accounts from the earliest days of the colony which describe the Sydney surrounds as "like parkland", with little fuel at ground level compared to today - achieved by the traditional Aboriginal land management practice of systematic patchwork burning. A pity these lessons have not been heeded over the past 250 years, although I seem to remember reading recently that these practices are being re-evaluated.

As to our rural roads being death-traps, I fully agree with the article. Friends of mine living in rural NSW have long said how stupid it is to prohibit clearing fuel loads along country roads.
I meant to mention Aborigine land management practices. I agree we should have learned from them.

As to clearing fuel roads along roads I agree too. As a kid growing up in rural SA I recall that it was normal for residents of that part of the world to spend some weekends especially in the lead up to winter when fuel would be needed for burning in open fires for home heating, to take a car and a trailer to collect wood from roadsides and from the farms of compliant farmers happy to have the nuisance and danger removed at no cost to them. It was part of family ritual which often included taking a .22 rifle to shoot rabbits for the pot (shock-horror, killing a furry creature) and foraging for autumn forest food like mushrooms (eating locally and seasonally was normal). In short it was an inherently pretty balanced and renewable life style. One that trendy inner city dwellers no doubt think only fit for the illiterates who do not live near a city CBD, never eat kale and seldom drink chardonnay. (For full and frank disclosure I am one of those inner city dwellers now, but I at least still have a healthy respect for my rural forebears and the way I was brought up).

As to the danger of having to use such a road as an escape route, well that danger should be obvious. I have had personal experience of being in the middle of a huge bushfire and having to drive down a road with trees literally exploding in flame on either side of the car from the intense heat as the flame front approached - actual flames had not even reached the exploding trees when they "detonated". Obviously we escaped but only because the road was quite a wide one and in that case the road verges were relatively clean of fuel. Even so it was a close run thing and not a little bit intense. On a narrow country road surrounded by trees and fallen debris it would be impossible and deadly.

In many places now, that lifestyle and especially road-side wood collecting like this has been prohibited by short sighted and dopey policies presumably on the idiotic idea that it adds to the carbon "footprint". (By this I mean that I should have thought that releasing and recycling carbon that had been sequestered by trees and plants just a few short years ago is preferable to burning fossil fuels for energy that sequestered its carbon millions of years ago. This goes doubly, when one stops for a moment to consider that if left laying there, that fuel will almost certainly sooner or later add to the carbon footprint by being burned in wildfires or alternatively it will decay naturally over a few years and do so). And it's vastly preferable to relying on inherently unreliable wind energy that in any event is so ludicrously expensive that many cannot now afford to use it and must freeze instead.)
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Old 01-04-2020   #31
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Best of luck to all people in Australia. I hope that it suddenly will rain a lot.
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Old 01-04-2020   #32
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Thoughts and prayers are always welcome, but if anyone would like to contribute to the fire fighting effort (and the huge array of other challenges that come with these events), there is a guide on how you can do so here.

https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/progr...-help/11839842
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I'm sorry for your troubles KM-25 and Australia's as well
Old 01-04-2020   #33
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I'm sorry for your troubles KM-25 and Australia's as well

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Originally Posted by KM-25 View Post
I almost lost my home in July of 2018 to a wildfire and nothing like we are seeing now. A few weeks later a friend of mine ( a photographer ) lost his home in Malibu to that fire. Then he lost a family friend in the Paradise fire. Even the owner of this site had a fire come very close to his area of a business that likely helps to sustain this site.

We are about 20-30 years too late in correcting our bad behavior in terms of this planet's ability to support current forms of life. This will get worse, much much worse. This is not political, that is a poor excuse to suppress the discussion of the obvious and I won't tolerate it.

When ever someone now asks me where I am from or where I was born, I tell them Earth. And when someone asks me what nationality I am, I say I am a human being. Get the picture folks? Get the real and big picture that in this decade we will see that we have been wrong about what our grandchildren will inherit in terms of our inaction. It's not then, it is now and it has barely just begun.
Dear KM,

It's hard to come to grips with that we have always assumed would be sustainable may not be. I live in Pennsylvania, a place where more people seem to leave than come to?

We need to find a better way to balance our actions with those of our host planet, but for today I will be content to extend sympathy to your and your family and friends, along with those people 1000's miles from me.

Regards,

Tim Murphy

Harrisburg, PA
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Old 01-04-2020   #34
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Our prayers go out to our Aussie friends and family (we have family in Riverstone, a suburb of Sydney and in Townsville). According to the news, as of yesterday, the Australian bushfires have burned a total of 12 million acres, approximately the size of the states of Vemont and New Hampshire combined. In comparison, the most destructive fire season in California history (2018) burned less than 2M acres.
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Old 01-04-2020   #35
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I'm troubled by this unending story of fire, destruction, and hardship in Australia. I wish all of you there the best.


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Old 01-04-2020   #36
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Returned this evening to our home after evacuating last week. Sent the wife and kids and family photos away first, stayed to pack the GAS kit. Our local bushfire in beautiful natural, but very dry parkland was small compared to the massive fire storm that is still raging, but I have no desire to get any closer than we did. Many friends are still in harms way.

I suspect the political debate will heat up as well. I have strong views but that is for a different soapbox. However, the schisms are already becoming obvious, with the trauma driving these splits from just beneath the surface. None of our lifestyles and choices here are exempt from contributing to where we are at on this planet. It just manifests differently across the globe.

What may not be obvious to non- Aussies is the circa 500 million animals that have been estimated to have been lost, and the potential for complete extinction of some species.

Summer 2020 will go down as the year our collective lack of vision came back to burn us. We’ll have to build a new vision that all sides of politics can countenance and commit to.
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Old 01-05-2020   #37
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One hesitates to say anything on this topic.

A physicist PhD Robert Rohde @RARohde (not Australian so far as I know) presents some fascinating animations and graphs on this topic and others on Twitter. A recent one on Australian Climate shows that 2019 is notable for the combination of increased average temperature and the low rainfall - drought. He plots the figures for all of the 20th century through to now. The precise source of the figures is unclear. He is linked to Berkely Earth which I have not researched much, but they are willing to expose climate science deceptions at the same time as promoting ways to reduce emissions in China and India.

I understand that the dryness and increased winter temperatures were a barrier to forest fuel reduction burns this year. One of these got out of control in NSW in the last two years and shrouded Sydney in smoke.

Ten years ago in Victoria 173 people died in the Black Saturday fires of the 7th of February 2009. There was a Royal Commission and much was learnt. A state minister of the time is now the Premier and he has led admirably this week. The advice to populations to just get right out of the area has saved scores of lives. The coordination of emergencyvic and the Country Fire Authority and the early request for defence force support by the Premier, leading to the remarkable amphibious landing craft evacuations on Friday, and the army helicopter evacuations of small towns cut off by road this weekend have all been unprecedented and impressive. The death toll in Victoria is currently well under 10% of that ten years ago, with these fires far worse.
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Old 01-05-2020   #38
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Apropos my earlier comment about traditional patchwork burning, see full story from today's Sydney Morning Herald:

"Phil Sheppard watched with trepidation as a giant blaze approached his beloved Hunter Valley property outside Laguna, near Cessnock.

The Aboriginal elder had poured his heart and soul into Ngurrumpaa - an isolated 160-acre bushland property with a main house and several huts, offering cultural camps for tourists and Indigenous youth.

Three weeks ago, he and other owners were forced to evacuate, helplessly watching online as the Gospers Mountain fire converged with the Little L Complex fire and appeared to engulf the property.

To his amazement, when he returned two days later, traversing the long gravel driveway on foot after fallen trees blocked vehicle access, most structures remained perfectly intact.

“I came around the bend and could see my hut still standing, I just couldn't believe it,” said the 66-year-old.

“It burnt right around the house ... it was as if somebody had been here watching it and putting it out, but there wasn't, there was nobody here at all.”

Owners say the property was saved by the traditional Indigenous technique of cultural burning conducted on their land three years ago.

The only hut not protected by cultural burning, 500 metres from the main house, was destroyed in the blaze.

“It's pretty miraculous,” said co-owner Leanne King, 60.

“This is proof that [cultural burning] works.” "
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Old 01-05-2020   #39
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@nickthetasmaniac - hope you're safe and sound over there.

@teddy - you stay safe too, man.

@ChrisN - As I said, I was going to Canberra this week, but canceled due to the fires. The Hume freeway was closed near Euroa, where I would have had to drive, and Canberra itself has smoke pollution as bad as Lahore and Delhi! I hope you can stay inside as much as you can.
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Old 01-06-2020   #40
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Apart from loss of life and property the saddest aspect of the fires for me is loss of wildlife and unique vegetation. Years ago I lived in Far East Gippsland which for me was the centre of the universe. I lugged my 8x10 and 6x6 along the endless coastline, the Errinundra plateau, and up into the Snowy Mountains and alpine areas. There are (I hope not 'were') areas of unique vegetation in East Gippsland remnant of the time when Tasmania and the mainland were joined before the last ice age, and if burnt their loss would be permanent, I fear. The world is on the brink of a climate crisis which if not addressed now could lead to global catastrophies of which our current experience is but a preview.
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