Fire is one of the banes of this country. The nature of our landscape and weather patterns provides an ogoing banquet of fuel for this red marauding beast. Nevertheless, we live with it and many, over time, have died with it. It has ever been in the background of my awareness. As a kid I most enjoyed holidays with family in the Adelaide Hills. You could see the escarpment from our house down on the plain. Scarcely a year went by when you could not be aware of the smoke on the horizon and we would wonder if the fires were “anywhere near Uncle Ron’s place.” I recall leading a youth camp where fire from an exploding kerosene fridge leveled the kitchen and main hall in five minutes flat. Fate or fortune or providence had us all down at the river at the time. One bushfire we scarcely noticed was the one razing the mountain behind the Ainslie manse the day we brought our infant son home. We were somewhat preoccupied that day. The years we lived in Bridgewater – again in the Adelaide hills – had us well tuned into the fire season with our action plans ready to go if needed. My sister’s place a few ridges away came dangerously close to being burnt out one year.
The Victorian fires this weekend have a strange “here we go again” feel. Amongst the angst and the despair that is in the air, even on the West Coast that is as far from the fires as you can get on this big island, there is a sense of resignation. You can fight nature, but you can’t master it. One thing you can do is to tap into the community spirit that rises above the devastation and loss and seeks practical ways to give muscle to hope. Not Pollyanna “everything’s going to turn out alright” hope – but the kind that grants a due and respectful acknowledgemt to the grieving process that must yet unfold, a sifting of memories from which can be extracted the values and inspiration that have survived, and using these as building blocks for a new thing.
We’ve had a lot of experience in this land of doing just that. There’s no reason why it won’t happen again in the months and years ahead for the communities destroyed in the weekend’s fires.
4 thoughts on “Bushfires”
Quite unbidden, this media release from SafeCom crossed the posting of this blog. It illustrates my point and takes it a few steps further.
MEDIA RELEASE: Deep grief and distress over fires needs to transform into climate change disaster intensification deliberations
Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Office 08 9881-5651
Deep grief and distress over fires needs to transform into climate change disaster intensification deliberations
Monday February 9, 2009 7:30am WST
For immediate Release
“Project SafeCom today shares the deep grief and intense distress increasingly felt around the nation over the devastating Victorian fires,” spokesman Jack H Smit said this morning.
“While there is deep and mounting grief around Australia over the lives lost in the Victorian fires, and while levels of distress are also mounting over lost properties, stock, loved pets and material possessions, a grief and distress shared by us all, a new resolve ought to grow from this grief, not just about the traditional relevance of “stay and defend” strategies of properties, now that we can see the overpowering might of nature when it moves as it wants to with out-of-control fires, but also about climate change related factors that have led to the fires.”
“The period leading up to the fires contained several “worst ever” factors which have already been identified and acknowledged by fire and rescue chiefs as well as weather experts, who have already mentioned the duration of the hot spells and the intensity of forest droughts. These factors indicate more than ordinary climate variations, and already the notion of climate change as a definite factor contributing to the fires have been pointed at in the media by those chiefs.”
“Australia and its leaders, including the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and climate change Minister Penny Wong, now need to be prepared to face the possibility that these fires may well mark the year 2009 as the start of a period where climate change disasters of this magnitude will be with us, time and again.”
“This may not just be true for the fires, but also for the Queensland floods, where similar “longer than ever” remarks about the rainfall period have now been mentioned.”
“These deliberations can no longer be dismissed as a emotional and negative doomsday-sayer’s hyperbole, but they need to be encountered with care, resolve and determination, leading to new strategies, plans and national assistance programs.”
For more information: Jack H Smit, Project SafeCom Inc.
Office 08 9881-5651 | mobile 0417 090 130
Thanks for the reflection.I think,however that the stark reality of the current crisis means that no longer will there be that kind of resignation of “here we go again”.
This morning (Wed)as I write, the death toll is 181,the estimation is that it will quickly move beyond 200, and the coroner has prepared a morgue to hold 300 bodies.Police experts are suggesting it could take up to 12 months to identify some bodies.
Whole towns and neighbourhoods are crime scenes.
Nearly 800 houses have been destroyed,and upwards of 5000 people are homeless.
With the whole of the community and governments,the church is going to have to do a whole lot of new and creative thinking.
Whether or not as churches we have the skills,committment and experience,also, to do this,only time will tell I guess.
Thanks, Alan, you are quite right. Since my initial post, it has become very clear that this surpasses anything we have experienced in the past. I have also observed from cyberspace chatter that the farther away we are from the crisis zone the more difficult it is to appreciate the gargantuan proportions of what has and is taking place. It is clear that a seismic shift in our thinking at all community levels is necessary if we are to properly prepare our response to the results of disaster.
While meeting the immediate needs is the current challenge,one of the issues which is going to test the church in the coming days relates to the arsonist.It is suggested that at least some of the fires,and in partcular one in Gippsland,was started by arsonists;in this fire 21 people were killed.
I think the Victorian churches are going to value any reflection on arsonists-punishment-forgiveness-restorative justice.
Perhaps some of your readers can help.