25 years ago I watched my mother pack a cardboard box with a few of the things she could not bear to leave behind. Certificates, documents, some photos and a few mementoes of our childhoods and her married life. That box sat in the hall by the front door for the best part of a week while the bushfires culminating in Ash Wednesday burned. Ballarat was fortunate we weren't hit but everyone knew someone who was affected somehow. Yesterday's bushfires were even bigger, whole towns are gone.
I don't know if people in the Northern Hemisphere reading this can comprehend the heat and ferocity of the winds that drive a bushfire. Even miles away from the blaze the air is so dry the breath catches in your throat with every inhalation. The sky is grey and orange and hellish and thick with smoke. Up close doesn't even bear thinking about. An area the size of the UK's North is on fire.
I spoke with my cousin this morning. The fires came to within a kilometre of her house in the middle of Bendigo (a large country town about the size of Salisbury). Another cousin spent the day gathering in her stock while her husband and son are off on the C.F.A. trucks fighting the fires around the Kilmore/Tooborac areas. Another cousin is also out on the fire trucks, she turns out for the Tullarook C.F.A. Admittedly when she spoke with her sister tonight (Sunday p.m. Australian time) she was eating an ice-cream while stationed at the Allen's factory. It is good to know someone is doing the important job of making sure the jelly snakes, chicos and all the other lollies are safe ;-)
All joking aside this is an horrific situation and there are 1000s of men and women risking their lives to try and bring this situation under control. To try and fight the craziness of a firefront that is over 40 metres HIGH in some places and reaches across whole districts. Fire has no channel to follow, it goes where the wind blows and can turn in seconds to erase a town that only minutes before thought it was safe.
The Australian Red Cross has launched an appeal to aid those devastated by the fire. At the risk of stealing a catchphrase - every little bit will help so please log in to your paypal account and contribute just a few pounds, dollars, euros, cents, pence, groats, shekels or anything else you can lay your hands on.
(Australian Red Cross asks for a minimum donation of Aus$5.00. This is about £2.30, half the price of bottle of wine!)