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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bushfires update - Victoria 8.2.09.

Evening Update. As at 9:30 pm, ABC News is reporting that 84 people have now been confirmed as having been killed in these fires, and more than 700 homes destroyed. These figures are being revised upwards as more properties are inspected. And, lets not forget the fires are still burning, especially in the north east (around Beechworth) and in Gippsland.

These fatality figures are now more than were killed in the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 and even more than the legendary fires of Black Friday, from 1939. That fire followed a very similar track to this fire, but about 20 km further south. It burnt out Kinglake and Warrandyte and Yarra Glen (and many other towns). This one destroyed both Kinglake and Marysville.
There is an extensive report on yesterday and today's fires on Wikipedia, already, amazingly.


At lunchtime, (AEST), it is reported that 35 people are known to have been killed in these Victorian fires. The town of Marysville is said to have been all but destroyed, and grave fears are still held for the town and residents of Kinglake.

Incidentally, the maximum Temperature in Melbourne yesterday was 46.5 C, (115.6 F) even hotter than I reported yesterday. (Thanks to Lynn for pointing out I had written 36.5C. She knew it was a typo, as I basically had the calculation right.)

The Bushfire Hotspots E-Map link is HERE.
That is for the full Australia map.
You can stream live radio from ABC Melbourne (774) from here.
Click to select which "player" you wish - usually Windows Media Player of Real Player - whatever you have installed in your system. While the fires are burning, they will continue Emergency Services broadcasting.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) site has emergency bulletins here.


Back to the E-Map system, you can select to zoom anywhere you wish to look at in detail - from that link above.

Select the full screen image by clicking just below the map, near this text: "View full page map with additional information".
Then you can drag the map east, west, north or south, and also zoom in to any level of detail. Select "roads" to show maps and town names, to help you find the areas you want to check out.

This is the image for the area north and east of Melbourne. That shows the 4 main fire groups, near Kilmore, Kinglake and Marysville, the Warrigul area fires (NW of that city), and the fires south of Traralgon. There are other fires as well, but to get the details you need to go the website linked at the top of this page.This is the zoomed image for the Kinglake area. (click to see the image clearly, if you want to check particular roads.). Better still, go to the website above, and search for Kinglake Vic, and then zoom out, to get the district image.This is the image for Gippsland, from west of Warrigul, and also the more southerly fires. Finally, I add this as a special protest about idiots lighting fires deliberately. The Victorian media this morning reported that the fires at Labertouche (marked) had been deliberately lit by firebugs.
What can one say about such unspeakably stupid and criminal behaviour?

Nobody can say that they were not warned.
John Brumby published a warning on Friday, which was carried in the Media.
  • With temperatures set to soar to the mid-40s throughout Victoria, Mr Brumby said the conditions were worse than those that preceded the devastating bushfires of Ash Wednesday or Black Friday.

  • "It's just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder-dry. People need to exercise real common sense tomorrow," he said.

  • "I can't stress this enough, I know that the chief fire officer has been out and he said it will be as bad as you can get and he's not exaggerating," Mr Brumby said.

DJW Comment. Ultimately, it was a factor of the temperature and the winds combining to produce a fire storm, but the tinder-dry state of the forests was also a critical factor. No doubt there will be an inquest or Coronial Inquiry (as there was after the Canberra fires, but that got bogged down in politics and industrial/legal issues).

But the role of humans in starting fires is something which our Society has yet to come to terms with. Power lines, improperly maintained are frequent causes of arcing and sparks. Improper use of Power Tools, on total fire ban days is another major cause of fires. Arson is an obvious cause - something which so many of us are puzzled by. But what about lazy smokers throwing lighted cigarettes out car windows? The Bendigo fires are said to have started beside a highway.

One simple factor - cigarettes - might be responsible for much of the devastation.



Lynn said...

Hi Denis
I think that you meant 46.5 (not 36.5) degrees.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Lynn
Thanks - You are correct. I knew that I had mis-typed it.
My computer crashed in the process of posting, and that edit was lost, and I forgot to go back and fix it,
I'll amend it now.
Silly me. Too hot!
At least a cool change has arrived now.

Joe said...

We had horrible fires in Florida for the last two years during the end of our Spring Season and end to the Summer.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Denis, I've been watching this worriedly from up here in Nova Scotia. I'd gladly send some of our snow down there if it would only help control the fires.
That's cool that you know Leo Smit. He has a wonderful nursery and a plantsman's true natural touch with growing things.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Joe and Jodi.
There has been terrific interest in the Fires.
It has been an horrific experience for the people involved and all Victorians are "stunned".
The rest of Australia is watching closely, as there are many fires in NSW as well. There are national appeals for funds launched.
There is an inherent problem with people choosing to live in tall Eucalypt forests. Sydney is just as bad, but Victoria gets more of these ultra-dry and ultra-hot weather conditions. Dry years, such as they have had for at least 4 years now, probably longer, mean the whole forest is a tinderbox.
The fires are still burning, as I write, but it seems there is less immediate threat to towns. But Beechworth and other towns in the north-east of Victoria are still on alert.