Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fires in Australia - 1st Person Account - Chapter 2

By Guest Blogger Adrianne Newman who lives in the south of Australia, in the Australian state of Victoria. This is near Melbourne. Ms. Newman is an American who has lived in Australia for about 30 years. Glenys and Ms. Newman are partners.

This was date marked 2/12/09 at 2:15 am

If there is one thing I've learned from all this it is to stay in
contact with folks...regularly because people care and worry....and I
know because I've been doing it myself lots lately.

I keep calling my other girlfriend Sally, who job shares with me and
lives in Seville, which is near the funky bit they are trying
furiously to back burn and put down containment lines near, because if
the Bunyip and Kinglake-Maroondah complex fires merge they are then on
track to take out Melbourne's water and gas supplies. [Sally calls me
her personal stalker because I ring her each day to see how her family
is and to remind her that there are beds here if it all goes to the

Been cooler the last few days so the fireys have been at warp speed,
with the help of the Army, to try and get these Mother fires under
control. Right now there are 61 fires across the state but none are
endangering homes or 'assets'....there must be some bloody economist
type nerd in the fireys to come up with that term. There was some
rain in the east which helped overnight damp down some of the action
but it didn't happen here. I now think we're up to about 35 days
without any rain and after 12 years of drought it is very easy to see
in hindsight why the whole place lit up like a whorehouse on a
Saturday night when it was set alight!

I had a conversation with a guy who works at the hospital who lives in
Coldstream. Said he was watching the fire proceed into Kinglake and
then all of a sudden it was like the instantaneous combustion you get
when the barbeque goes 'whoooof' and lights up, and that was the end
of Kinglake.

Heard second hand from the guy who lived across the street from Tanya
in Kinglake that they were inside, the fire came up the slope at a
billion miles an hour...actually was travelling at 100 plus
kph.....hit the house and it exploded at the same time the substation
they lived near exploded so the only thing that consoles me is that
they never saw it coming and that it was quick. She was with Jim and
the animals, and in her favourite place on Earth.....3 out of 3 ain't
a bad way to go.

The thing that is really odd is that we were told that Tanya and Jim
were 'confirmed dead but that it wasn't official' , so this is going
to play havoc with a lot of people's heads. After all it is stressful
enough to lose someone and have a funeral and bury them usually within
a week, and then you do the grieving thing for however long it takes.
With this, the 'bodies' are being trucked into the city and being
placed in a knocked up morgue outside the real city morgue because it
was already full. We had 40 die from the heat the week before, mostly
older folks, so 'there was no room at the inn' if you get my drift.
Evidently there is a world's best practice protocol of how to build a
morgue, if your morgue is already full, so we have one of those in the
city now.

What they want to be able to do is identify everyone properly, so that
Mary Lou is really Mary Lou and not Betty.... because burying Mary Lou
in with Harry instead of her husband Nick...well you see how
complicated this is for the forensic folks, and they definately want
to do the very best job possible with IDs. So not sure when Tanya's
funeral will be and everyone else is in the same boat.

The Police are about 95% sure that the fire at Marysville, that little
hamlet of 500 folks that is no longer on the face of the planet, was
deliberately lit. 100 people died and those in the know say that the
direction of the fire, and subsequent area fires, weren't according to
the Book of Fire in anyway and reek of arson. I find absolutely no
comfort in the fact that I share the same DNA as these murders but God
forbid if the general public gets a hold of them as there won't be a
hair left to analyse.

I have been smelling smoke since I got home at 5 and have just heard
on the radio that there was a grass fire in Ivanhoe, which is 2 towns
over West of us. It is out now and being watched but who knows how
that started? And you can drive home and still see the lowlifes who
smoke throwing the butts out the window as they hurtle

Over 400,000 hectares have burned so far and 1 hectare equals 2.47
acres so you Yanks do the's massive and not yet done.

More than 1000 houses are toast and perhaps 5,000 homeless....homeless
figures rubbery as not all have put themselves on lists yet. They
have set up army tents on the ovals in towns and this is where folks
are hanging until they can get other accommodation sorted. There
already was a rental crisis with very little stock before the fires so
Heaven knows where they are all going to go. Perhaps on the MCG?

So the weather is warming up slowly as we head towards the
weekend...back to 28 (82) on Sunday and they reckon there will be a
wind change that will go Northerly again, which puts us back in the

It's very interesting the new phobia I seem to have developed....each
time I hear to wind whip through the trees since Saturday I get this
fear in my stomach. Other people have the same thing I've found out,
so the wind's up now and I'm smelling smoke and I'm supposed to feel
ok because the fires are contained. I think everyone's nerves are
going to be rattled for quite a while.

Glenys lost it on Tuesday because the boss's phone went off and she
was told to engage her fire plan, even though there appeared to be no
alert on the radio. Janette lives about 20 minnies away in a
Southwest direction at Warrandyte, and Glenys was sobbing and pleading
for me to go home and get Chloe. Well it was a false alarm, thank
goodness, but we're all getting to the end of our tether I have to say
and then I had to tell her about Tanya last night. For a woman with
nerves of steel, or the appearance of, she's as wired as I am.

THANKS for all the good wishes and prayers....keep 'em coming because
it's a comfort to know that we aren't in this alone.

And to the Kiwi's - congrats on the cricket you have been playing and
may you come up with the best game you've ever played tomorrow and
really crush the hopes of this country! [The Oz one day team visited
some of the fire affected folks in Whittlesea yesterday and wound up
taking off their shoes and socks and jackets, etc to give the folks
with nothing....must say the boys were rather buff in the y-fronts if
I do say so myself!!!

1 comment:

pita-woman said...

I've been checking in w/my Aussie friends, even though they are to the north of the fires. Of course, one of those friends doesn't check his computer very often (& I don't know his phone or address) so I can only hope that because the girls are safe thus far, he is too.