Monday, February 09, 2009

Australian Bushfires 2009

Well... the bad news keeps pouring in. Now NSW has massive fires along with all the ones still burning out of control in VIC.

Gee, don't forget about the massive flooding up in QLD.


This post will be a bit disjointed today. I've been trying to keep up with the news and have a great many links and info for you all, but there are times (like as I type this) that I have to take a break and cry.

About every 30 minutes the death toll is updated from Victoria (VIC). I think right now it's at 135. Several small towns have disappeared.

Before ANYONE puts in a comment about folks not having a fire plan or living in a bushfire prone area, let me say a couple a things.

Firstly, all my regular commenters will give you the smackdown of your life.

Nextly, these are folks and towns that have fire plans and have weathered untold numbers of fires of the years. Leave early or stay and defend (with a proper plan and fire-proofing stuff ready) has worked for decades for these people.

There are old veteran bushfire fighters from not only Aus but around the globe (we're all in this together!) who say they've never seen anything like this. The speed, the heat, etc. Yes, this includes fighters who regularly battle fires flamed by the US Californian Santa Ana winds.

Well, here's a few links about that while I go blow my nose... I'll be back.


No warning

I saw one story where a fire started 1.5 km from a town and within 5 minutes the town was an inferno.

Fire falling from the sky, burning embers from trees that exploded over 12 km away, mini fire tornados spring up... shit...

This all happened in the space of just a few hours over our Saturday night. Fire crews had been on alert just waiting for what one (asshole) news commentator dubbed "The Perfect Firestorm," but there wasn't much they could do.

I'd heard reports of over 10,000 CFA fighters working to contain untold number of blazes. South Aus sent over a contigent of our CFS guys along with Elvis. Elvis is out big ole Erickson Sky Crane helicopter that can dump a lot of water quickly. We couldn't spare much more as we've got our own fires.

A doctor at the Alfred Hospital said this is worse than he saw when he treated the Bali bombing victims:

Alfred Hospital

Oh, and they've just run out of morphine...

Offers of help and aid have been coming in from around the world, notable from the Commomwealth countries, of course.

UK Prime Minister

And I do believe the Kiwis have just asked what they can do. Apparantly the smoke made it all the way over there and that's never happened from our fires before.

Just because the weather has cooled off a bit, doesn't mean the fires are out. There's no rain. Victoria has had a ten year (I think) drought and I think South Aus is in year number 6. Many towns have just now been placed on alert:

Fire Alert

So, like what are Aussies and the govmint doin'? LOTS!

Sunday morning (immediately after the major firestorm started) ole Kevin Rudd (yes, our PM is Krudd) pledged a $10M dollar Community Relief Fund. The Victorian State Premier (think Governor for those of you in the US) added $2M and the Fed (Krudd) matched that.

Krudd then mobilised the Army to help not only with fire fighting but also with logistical and transport help for all the aid pouring in, and also with loads of heavy equipment for clearing roads, debris. No need to dig firebreaks or trenches down here, these fires jump them without a second thought.

Cricket Australia and Channel Nine announced that the upcoming international match between the Aussies and the Kiwis will be for charity. That includes gate money, ad revenue, concessions, etc.

Commonwealth Bank kicked off the cricket drive with $1M. Then all the major Australian banks each kicked in $1M apiece. I do believe Wesfarmers has just kicked in $500,000 today too.

Just got word that News Limited (they own the Sydney Morning Herald) just kicked in $1M.

As of 3:30 this afternoon individual aussies had already donated $5.6M

The Aussie Red Cross is keeping track of all this, and every single cent is going to relief and help, not a thin dime to their admin; very cool and good on 'em!

What's cool is not only can you help online, but you can stroll into any Bunnings Hardware Store to make a donation, or saunter into any of these banks to help too: NAB, ANZ, Westpac or Commonwealth Bank branch.

If you are overseas and want to help, then just go here:

Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009

I urge any Alaskan NOT to make a donation though until they have sent one flat rate box to the Y-K Delta Villages:

Nunam Iqua Food Drive
c/o Ann Strongheart
P.O. Box 7
Nunam Iqua, AK 99666

cus them folks are hard up and the Governor of Alaska isn't doing squat to help them!

If you want to keep up with the fires and where they are at, both Google and Aus-emaps have come to the rescue. Aus-emaps is pretty slow though but they do cover the whole continent...

Google VIC fires

Aus-emaps fires

And if you want to keep up with the news:

Lotsa news stories

For those of you who like tales of grief...

Bad news

Well, I'm off to make dinner... hopefully it'll be good but my mind sure ain't gonna be on cooking.


Loveanewidea said...

This is so sad, so scary - and with the intense heat you've had down there, it seems the threat of fire will continue to be a danger.

Thank you for updating us about what's going on, and for including all the relevant links. We're hearing about the fires on the news (heard on NPR this morning that fires were possibly arson????), but haven't gotten the in-depth coverage your story and links provide.

Stay safe.

KC said...

I heard about this while I was digging out a truck yesterday. As bad as some of the troubles are, some of the stories I heard on the radio sure did put it in perspective. Glad you're not in that area - hoping dearly it stays that way.

Arvay said...

Your countrymen are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...


Stay safe.I was looking at Google Earth earlier to make sure nothing is in your area. (I hope).

And if it does turn out to be arson, I hope they catch him/them and put them to work cleaning up the fire areas! Without water.


trevs72 said...

One interesting (good?) thing about this is you can view these places the way they used to be with Google 'street view'. Kinglake, Flowerdale, Steels Creek, Marysville; they're all there.

And then compare some of the horrific scenes with the way it was.
theage has several after photos of Marysville.
Trev in DC

Jim and Heather on Meerkat said...

Horrifying - sad. I always hated fire season in SoCal when I was in insurance... still hate it. Hoping it gets better for all...

Gretchen said...

This is extremely sad to hear. I saw a picture online yesterday of a fire rescue person giving a koala water from a bottle, it broke my heart. It's horrible to think about all the people AND the beautiful wildlife that are being affected by this tragedy.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

To all: Thanks for the thoughts! Every little bit helps. Aussies are great folk and they all pull together during a crisis like they are now.

Anna: Ummmm, I'm much more liberal than you but I really disagree with making them do cleanup duty. These sickos revel in the destruction they cause. The police have turned entire towns into crime scenes and they'll be charging the punks with mass murder charges.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Jesus. Firestorms---

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Deirdre: Just heard the energy released during Saturday nights' fires were the equivalent of 500 atomic bombs.

Anonymous said...

Crap, that is absolutely horrific. I am glad you are safe.

Do you think that it was arson, or was it accidental? And if so, is there a death penalty in Australia?

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Sciencebloke: They figure about half of the fires are arson. The PM wants them charged with mass murder and loads of firemen want them declared terrorists. Life in prison is what they are facing. Hopefully in a jail cell with 3 big guys who lost friends in previous fires.

I love your pics from you Argentina trip, just haven't had the time to look at them all but I hope to be getting to them soon.