Temperatures of 41 C [105.8 F] are forecast for today, with strong northwesterly winds pushing south before a cool change tonight.
What does all that mean for us? Very, very high fire danger, that’s what.
As always, it’s the northerly wind that turns an unpleasant day into a dangerous one. Add a dry summer to the mix, and the potential for lightning strikes, and suddenly a dangerous day can quickly become fatal.
Here, in Australia, we are told we are responsible for our own safety during bushfires. We are not forced to evacuate, which can be a good thing if, like me, you have systems in place to protect yourself if all else fails. Unfortunately, not many people are prepared to spend their hard earned cash on fire fighting equipment they may never use.
Those people often say they will leave if a bushfire threatens, but few have any idea of when they should leave. Most stay at home, monitoring the situation and doing a ‘wait and see’.
I can sympathize with that very human reaction. None of us want to leave unless we really have to. Where will we go? What will we do with the animals? The kids? Elderly parents? And beneath it all is something we all know but avoid facing – if we leave, will we have anything to come home to?
That human response is the elephant in the room, and the fatal flaw in the current bushfire strategies. It may give the authorities a legal ‘out’ should something go pear shaped, but it’s of little use to actual residents.
So in case you’re reading this, here are some facts :
The time to leave is either the night before a bad day, or early in the morning – i.e. before there is any danger.
Why? Because once a bushfire does threaten your area, being on the roads is the WORST place to be.
– Because smoke can make it almost impossible to see where you’re going,
– Because trees can fall across the road, trapping you in your car,
– Because other drivers will be panicking just as much as you, and they can run into you, leaving you both stuck with no shelter.
Or, if you live in a place like Warrandyte, you might find yourself in an almighty traffic jam as every man and his dog tries to cross the bridge over the Yarra at exactly the same time.
If you have ever tried to cross the bridge during peak hour, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. People caught in such a traffic jam would be …in a bad way if the fire came through over the top of them.
So if you are caught unprepared, you are more likely to survive in your house than in your car. In a house, you have a bigger ‘bubble’ around you. In a house, you have multiple points of exit if the house itself begins to burn. In a house, you at least have some chance of getting out in one piece.
But here is where human nature strikes again. Knowing something is not the same as feeling it. You may know that you are safer staying in your house, but will you be able to resist the urge to run? Especially when you know you’ve done nothing, absolutely nothing to make that house less fire prone?
Fear is pernicious, and few of us are immune to it. So if you know you’re not prepared, please don’t wait. Go now. The worst that can happen is that you’ll lose your house, or feel a bit silly when nothing happens. But at least you and the most precious things in your life will still be alive to start again.
stay safe and cool,