Tag Archives: bushfires

Nillumbik budget ‘highlights’, 2017-18

I live in North Warrandyte. That means I’m stuck with Nillumbik Shire Council. This is the most expensive council in Victoria. We pay an obscene amount in rates. This year, the council boasts that it won’t raise rates. Yay.

This is also the same council that wants Residents to embed their houses in the bush despite the bushfire danger. Clearly, they don’t believe that Black Saturday can ever happen again. The proof is in the priority they place on bushfire mitigation. The following figures are taken directly from ‘Living in the landscape’, the Nillumbik Shire Council newsletter. The only change I’ve made is to sort the table by the cost. Have a look at this council’s priorities:

As you can see, $1,100,000 is considered more than enough for ’emergency management’ while a sporting redevelopment deserves almost twice as much at $1,795,000. I guess they figure that when a massive bushfire comes through again, we’ll all be dead and won’t be able to complain about their disregard for our health and safety.

Meeks


Bushfires – Inside the Inferno [Episode 1]

I just watched the first episode of ‘Bushfires – Inside the Inferno’ on SBS, and the one question that baffles me is why isn’t it being shown on every TV channel?

The program is brilliant and I urge everyone to watch the next episode – SBS TV, 8.30 pm, Wednesday.

Night, night

Meeks


Bushfire awareness tips – know your wind

After the near-debacle of the other day, I realised I didn’t know anywhere near as much about bushfires as I thought I did. So I asked for some help from those who do. The following tips are ‘rule of thumb’ only, but so much better than nothing.

1. Know your wind

Any wind will push the bushfire in front of it, so knowing where the wind is coming from tells you where it’s going to, roughly. In the graphics below, the blue arrows show wind direction. The red arrows show where the wind will push the fire from the point of ignition – i.e. from the point at which the fire starts.

– A north wind will push the fire to the SOUTH. [i.e. the wind is coming from the north so the fire is pushed to the south]

bushfire wind 1

A north westerly wind will push the fire in a SOUTH EASTERLY direction. [i.e. the wind is coming from the north west so the fire is pushed to the south east]

bushfire wind 2

A north easterly wind will push the fire in a SOUTH WESTERLY direction. [i.e. the wind is coming from the north east so the fire is pushed to the south west].

bushfire wind 3

The Bureau of Meteorology posts forecasts for heat and wind on its website every day. This is the forecast wind for today, January 16, 2014 :

“Winds northerly 15 to 20 km/h tending northwesterly in the early afternoon then becoming light in the late afternoon.”

I’ve just been outside [11.15am] and didn’t notice a wind…yet. Once it starts however, I’ll be keeping an even more wary eye on the Kangaroo Ground fire. It’s contained at the moment, but if it breaks out it will be heading south towards North Warrandyte.

“This is obvious, get to the point!”

-bites lip-

“This stuff isn’t obvious to everyone, so shut be patient!”

2. Know your fire

On a day with no wind, a bushfire will spread out in all directions as it follows the terrain. It will spread, but it won’t spread quickly because it’s burning under its own steam, so to speak.

bushfire no wind

The graphic shows a very theoretical spread across flat ground – e.g. a field of grass. It’s always the outer edge that’s actively burning because the bit in the middle has already been burned, and fire needs fresh fuel to continue.

[Note: You will never see that neat bulls eye pattern in real life so take this graphic with a huge grain of salt.]

Once you add wind to a fire, however, the pattern of spread changes to a cone.

bushfire cones

The milder the wind, the wider the cone. The stronger the wind the narrower the cone.

“But what does this have to do with me?”

-rolls eyes-

“The point is that you can now be proactive! Oh don’t give me that look…”

Okay, what this all means is that you don’t have to sit staring at the CFA website, waiting for warnings and advice. You can grab your street directory, check the Bureau of Meteorology website, plot the direction of all fires within a twenty minute driving radius of your house, and either leave, or start getting ready to defend.

For me, defending my house involves running the pumps and sprinklers for 5 minutes [to make sure everything is working], closing up the house [with the shutters] and wetting down the area directly around the house – with mains water while it’s still available.

You do know that the water is likely to stop flowing if a fire hits your area…right? There won’t be anything wrong with the pipes, it’s just that everyone will be trying to do the same thing as you, and only so much water can come through the pipes at any one time.

If nothing happens, and the fire goes away, then you’ve lost nothing by being proactive. However, if something bad does happen, then being proactive could well save your life. Think about it.

In the next post I’ll try and explain why the wind change is the most dangerous point in any bushfire.

Stay safe, and drink lots of fluids.

Meeks

 


“There is no skeptic at the end of a fire hose”

That line, delivered by Peter Marshall, Secretary of the United Firefighters Union [Victoria Branch] made the crowd at the Climate Change Rally roar its approval, and I yelled right along with them.

Marshall went on to say that in decades past, firefighters would have to deal with just one major fire event every ten years or so. Since 2002 however, there have been NINE major events. They all know that things have changed. They all know that their jobs have become much harder, despite new technology. And they all know that things are going to get even worse if something isn’t done about climate change.

Interestingly, David Packham, an expert on fire behaviour, doesn’t believe the incidence of more frequent, hotter bushfires is because of climate change. He believes it is down to nothing but fuel loads.

Now I have great respect for David Packham, and as a layperson, I agree that fuel loads play a critical role in bushfires, but fuel loads can’t explain the frequency of other, catastrophic natural events around the world. And I do think climate has more than a little to do with the dangers we now face every summer – because I’m old enough to remember the weather patterns we used to have. Maybe some of you will remember as well.

As a child of six I have a very vivid memory of the day the everlasting heat finally broke with a massive thunderstorm. I remember because I, along with my parents, and most of the people on our street, rushed out to dance in the rain. That was in 1959.

Then again at about 16 or 17, I remember lying in bed under the open window, praying for a breath of cool air so I could get some sleep before my exam the following morning. I didn’t get my wish.

The thing to note here is that back then, neither we nor many other people owned fans, much less air-conditioners. Sometimes it got incredibly hot, but most of the time summer was bearable, and going down to the beach was fun.

Maybe I’ve grown soft in my old age, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive without cooling of some sort these days. And I certainly worry about bushfires a whole lot more. The world I knew is changing, fast, and the future promises not relief but more of the same.

That fear for the future was echoed by a lot of other people at the rally on Sunday too.

When I realised that I was effectively a roving reporter for my blog, I gathered up my courage and started talking to people. The three ladies in the picture below were all roughly my age, and they were happy to tell me why they were at the rally.

3 ladiespic

One of the ladies talked about her fears for her grandchildren. The other two expressed similar concerns for the future, and were determined to do what they could to ensure that something was done about Climate Change. The sense of urgency was palpable, despite the pristine blue skies and glorious sunshine.

Looking around me I saw  people from every walk of life and every age bracket. If you look closely at the pictures in my previous post, you will see babies and young children, teenagers and young adults, people in their 30’s and 40’s, and lots of people like me. I even saw one placard that read Baby Boomers for Climate Action. Trust me, we Boomers were out in force, and I felt quite at home.

Sadly, a rally of 30,000 people out of a total population of  roughly 4 million is not going to make Tony Abbott lose much sleep. Even if we double that figure to factor in the people who wanted to come but couldn’t, that’s still only 60,000. Again, not enough people power to force any government to rethink its position. That is the bad news.

The good news is that we true believers got to see each other, and the seeing was uplifting. I came away from the rally feeling energized by the knowledge that I wasn’t just some mad dog barking away all by myself. Whether my efforts do any real good is moot, but perhaps the combination of lots of small efforts like mine will make a difference. While there’s life there’s hope. 🙂

And perhaps you out there will find yourselves motivated as well. As one of the speakers at the rally said, if every household in Australia invested in solar power, our reliance on dirty coal would be broken, and we’d save money as well. It’s good to dream. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Firebug? Or some kind of stupid?

CFA map, 26/1/2013

CFA map, 26/1/2013

Warrandyte earned its first ‘Watch and Act’ this morning thanks to two separate bushfires in the Wonga Park area. The CFA map shows the position of the last fire to be brought under control. It’s still not completely safe but as rain is predicted for tonight, we can all start breathing again.

The reason we were placed under Watch and Act was, I think, because both fires are located in state parks/reserves that follow the Yarra River as it snakes its way towards Warrandyte. If we had had an easterly wind, it would have pushed the fire right at us. Thank goodness it’s a cool day with very little wind.

But how did two separate fires begin in parkland on a cool day with no lightning?

That is the question, especially in view of the Kangaroo Ground fires of recent weeks. I hate to sound alarmist, but my money is on a firebug who thinks it’s great fun to watch people shitting themselves.

I may be wrong but if these fires are not the work of a nutter, then we must have some very stupid people lighting campfires and letting them get out of control. Either way I hope the authorities find the person or people responsible and give them hell. I’m not a violent person, but even I would be tempted to knock some sense into them with a very big stick!

I’m sorry to rant on like this but I’m angry.

This whole area is a tinderbox thanks to a long, dry summer and the negligence of those who should know better. Most residents are not prepared. Warrandyte has one ‘Safer Place’ * of last resort in a building adjacent to a football oval. I know that spot and I wouldn’t like to trust my life to it.

Why is commonsense in such short supply? How can we live in a place like this and not take the threat of bushfire seriously?

My only hope is that these dress rehearsals will shock some people into reassessing the danger… and taking some responsibility for their own lives and those of their neighbours. I’m not holding my breath.

*’The signs, [for Safer Place] are on Taroona Avenue in Warrandyte, … and point to two brick buildings at Warrandyte Reserve.’ This information appeared in  theage.com.au. You can read the full article here.

Meeks


Bushfires in Australia – 2013

I had a small epiphany today, and it was this : when fire runs out of fuel, it stops.

Seems so obvious doesn’t it? That simple fact is behind the theory and practice of firebreaks and containment lines;  take away the fuel in the path of a fire and it will [eventually] stop. Yet despite the obviousness of this fact, we continue to talk about bushfires as if they’re malevolent demons out to get us, while completely ignoring the part we play in our own destruction.

A man died yesterday. I am not saying he was in any way to blame for what happened to him, but his remains were found in the burnt out wreck of his car. I can only assume he was trying to out run the Gippsland bushfire.

The death of this one, unidentified man is a horrific reminder of the 173 who died in the bushfires of Black Saturday. After those fires we had a Royal Commission that recommended all sorts of sensible, practical measures to ensure nothing like that happens again. Coincidentally, we also had a number of years of above average rainfall. That has had consequences.

After eleven years of drought, the rains following Black Saturday were sorely needed, however they triggered a sort of collective amnesia we could have done without. The Bushfires Royal Commission handed down its report, the State Government changed hands, and we all pushed the fear of bushfires onto the back burner. After all, it was raining for godsake!

In the years since Black Saturday, the CFA sounded warnings about how lots of rain also meant lots of new growth, new growth that would dry off over summer and burn, but we largely ignored the warnings, and the fuel load built up.

Now here we are, back in the middle of an unusually dry, hot summer, with bushfires raging in almost every state, and the worst of the fire season still to come [in February].

I look around my own small corner of Victoria and all I see is neglect, and an almost wilful optimism that ‘we’ won’t be affected. Some home-owners have done the right thing, but far too many haven’t. I guess they’re the ones who’ll  leave in a panic and get caught in the bottle-neck of the bridge.

I understand panic, and when we had that fire at Kangaroo Ground recently, I sent the Daughter off without realising that half of Warrandyte would be trying to do the same thing. She was caught in that bottleneck. That won’t happen again, not to her, but I shudder to think how many Warrandyte residents will do the same thing the next time, and pay the price.

Bushfires are incredibly complex phenomena, and no one thing is ever to blame, but there are a few simple facts that we must acknowledge :

– fires need fuel,

– people who do not clear their blocks provide fuel for fires,

– people who do not clear their blocks endanger their own lives because leaving may not be possible, or it may be more dangerous than staying,

– people who do not clear their blocks put all our lives at risk because fires do not stop at the fenceline.

– and Local Councils who budget the barest minimum for fire-mitigation works – because they refuse to acknowledge the part fuel plays in a bushfire –  are culpable and should be tried in a Court of Law for wilful manslaughter.

Too harsh?  Not harsh enough. We can’t change our climate. We can’t change lightning strikes, and we certainly can’t lock up every fire-bug in the country, but we can change attitudes… if we try hard enough, and if there are legal and financial consequences for failure.

I love living in Warrandyte but there are no free lunches here. All that beauty has to be paid for in vigilance and maintenance. Burying your head in the sand won’t save the rest of your body when the fires visit us again. And they will you know, because Warrandyte is a fire-prone area and we’re living on luck, not good management.


Warrandyte – proposed rezoning lunacy

I have just learned that the state government is proposing to rezone Warrandyte to allow more people to move into this bushfire prone area – without providing any safeguards against the horror that killed 173 men, women and children on Black Saturday.

As a resident of Warrandyte I call this criminal.

Warrandyte is not a nice, safe, inner city suburb where house fires are either accidental or the result of arson. Warrandyte is a fringe suburb that burns. Regularly.  Major burns occurred in :

1851 – February 6 “Black Thursday”
1939 – January 13 “Black Friday”
1962 – January 14–16

Warrandyte also experienced less destructive bushfires in 1965 and 1969. All the old-timers say we are well and truly overdue for another. So what has changed to make Warrandyte a less fire prone area? Nothing. Not a single damned thing. If anything the danger has become more extreme because of the ideological madness of successive governments and local councils doing even less to reduce fuel loads in the area. If you are interested please see previous posts on bushfire preparedness here and here.

To be brutally honest I don’t give a flying fruitbat for the preservation of the Green Wedge in its present form. I am not interested in ideology. I am not interested in preserving anything in a bubble. Change is inevitable and we are not going to preserve our native flora and fauna by trying to turn back the clock to a time before white settlement. Nonetheless on the issue of rezoning I am siding with the conservationists but for very different reasons. I truly believe that increasing population density in Warrandyte is a recipe for disaster… for people.

Whatever your thoughts on conservation I ask that you go to the website below by following this link or by cutting and pasting the url into the address bar of your browser. Once you get there please sign up to make your views heard.

http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/theplanningsystem/improving-the-system/new-zones-for-victoria

This forum is our only chance to tell the government exactly what we think without having to go through committees or MPs or other representatives. If enough of us raise our voices then maybe, just maybe someone will listen.


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