31 August 2006

Littered with wikilinks

In summer, the bushfires rage, and rage
And rage, on such beautiful days
And we fight them
with water that runs through the cracks
water we're desparately trying to save.
the Cat Empire - Wine Song

Stinkypaw seemed surprised that I would exchange bushfires for cyclones. I would, gladly, and I'll try to explain why.

Cyclones are, compared to bushfires, very predictable. You get at least a day's notice, you can track on the meteorology site how fast they're going, what direction they're going. They are huge, and scary, and very destructive. But you know what you're getting. The wind speed is fierce, but they move slowly. You have time to prepare.

Bushfires erupt out of nowhere, travel up to 100 k's an hour (depending on the wind), jump barriers, change direction abruptly and destroy everything. They are unpredictable and bloody fast. Many times when I was young I'd climb the mountain near my home in summer and watch as around me in the distance fire after fire would start. The CFS would be run ragged chasing different fires all over the hills all day, then the next day, then the next, all summer. They are volunteers. They do it because bushfire threatens everyone.

I've seen the aftermath of huge fires. I travelled through New South Wales after the 2001 bushfires. Hundreds of kilometers burnt. In small towns all across the state banners hung in the main street thanking the firefighters who had come from interstate to help out.

I remember the worst bushfires of all, Ash Wednesday in 1983. I was five years old. The sky was all black and red, and the fires were coming. My parents decided to take us to my uncle's house, which was far better defended than ours. They loaded up the car as fast as they could with everything they wanted to save. I was told to grab my one favourite toy. That was such a hard decision for a five year old, knowing that everything could be destroyed before we returned. I don't remember what I took in the end. I remember driving away, and then waiting, waiting for the fire to get us or burn out.

We were lucky. The fire came to the end of our street, but was stopped at a firebreak. Hundreds of people around us lost their homes. Quite a few lost their lives.

It is incredibly eerie to travel through a eucalypt forest after a fire. The trees are all black. The leaves still hang on, but they are all brown. The ground still smokes.

But if you travel through again in a year or two, those trees will be covered in baby leaves. Bright green leaves clustered around black trunks.

Bushfires were an everpresent danger where I grew up. Here, they are still a danger, but not, it seems, so much. There was a small one near us recently, which was controlled within hours by water bombers. The others are far enough away from me. But fire is such a defining part of the Australian landscape. It's difficult to escape that, even in the city. Even in the north where I am now. We just have to live with them.


Stinkypaw said...

Thank you for taking the time to explain both phenomena to this Canadian girl who never witnessed a cyclone nor a bush fire! (But I've been snowed in!)

I see your point, and from knowing a little more about it, I better understand and tend towards cyclone as well - never thought I'd say that!

Thanks again!

DZER said...

in the immortal words of Frankenstein:


I've gone through more than my share of cyclones (they're typhoons here) ... and I agree about how you can at least prepare for them better than pretty much any other natural disaster ...

Summer Rose said...

Been through a few earthquakes, myself growing up. So far my boys haven't expeienced one yet. I'm sure they will sooner or later.

I remeber the 1989 quake during the World Series game between Okland A's and the Giant's. Even now they are still likely to happen I'd take rain any day.

There is a forest fire burning near Lake Tahoe, I'm not sure how it started I'm sure it was by someone not being careful.

hasarder said...

Stinkypaw - no probs! It gave me something to write about - more ideas, please peoples! I've been a bit dry lately.

DZER - you would have laughed to see how much I panicked before our first cyclone. Made Partner take everything inside and tape up the windows. In the end it passed north of here, didn't feel a thing.

But we were under the big spiral cloud, and no one says how bad the wind will be at the edge, just in the middle. Partner knew we would be fine, he's been through them before, but I was shitting myself.

Did you ever notice the sky being a strange colour in a night cyclone? I don't know if that's common or just happened that one time.

SR - I've heard they have more fires in Cali now because they have so many Aussie eucalyptus trees there. Bugger!

I grew up on a fault line, but a very old and stable one. Last big quake was in the 1950s. There was a small quake that put a crack in my bedroom wall one night when I was a kid, but I didn't even wake up.