Fighting the Fire
On Saturday the 7th of February conditions of extreme heat and strong winds caused many fires throughout the state of Victoria. These fires destructed more than a thousand homes and caused a death toll nearing 200, both of which are set to worsen. Hundreds of fires burnt out of control, leaving a path of destruction.
A grass fire began in Narre Warren North, on Saturday, when a local decided to use a grinder to make a fence. A resident of Narre Warren North explained that the fire had taken "one house on our road which was heritage listed and then three houses to the back of ours." The Narre Warren North fire also affected all of Harkaway with most residents being evacuated from their homes.
The resident of Narre Warren North explained that the fire wasn't an emergency at the beginning but when it hit the gully it became an emergency, fast. She said there was no warning for us, "it began at the front of the property from the gully at the bottom of the road, then it was at the side then at the back of our property." The house was under extreme threat.
When asked how she coped she said "I chucked the chooks in the laundry, the dog in the house and we filled buckets, and got the hose ready. We also had our recycle bin full of water, I wasn't worried a lot about my house but about other peoples. At the beginning I said to my husband we should help our neighbours, their barn may go". The fire began impacting houses and sheds around 5pm on 'Black Saturday'.
The resident had a lot of locals in her backyard all helping fight the fire by throwing water buckets over the fence, most of these locals weren't fire-fighters. The resident also said that "'Elvis' the water-bombing helicopter was taking water from the lake next to their property".
The resident can still smell smoke, she said "a week later it is still smoky and although the fire is contained the CFA is checking it regularly".
A volunteer fire fighter from Berwick spoke on how his job was to go "to the fires in Narre Warren North at around 3pm", after he arrived they "ran a hose about 60m long behind houses putting out fences and the grass along the fence line". He praised locals as they helped out "with their garden hose". Whilst fighting the grass fire a "local ran out yelling 'STOP STOP, my house is on fire!" He explained that from there it "took us two hours to get the fire out from around the houses."
The volunteer spent another four hours protecting assets at Narre Warren North before stopping for a break. On Saturday the 14th of February he left for the Wilsons Prom fire where he was fighting the fire for 14 hours.
The volunteer explained how relieved he was that most of the fires around Victoria are "controlled now, but there's eight still going." He hoped that in a few more weeks all of the fires would be under control because "seeing the fire was bad then it got worse and worse" he explained that "the fires over the past few weekends were the worst in history". The young man did say that the past two weeks had provided him with a greater "understanding of weather change" in regards to a fire.
Volunteering as a fire fighter runs through his family, his father was a fire fighter; his cousin and his uncle are also both fire fighters.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has stated that an emergency warning system was high on the Government's agenda, implementing a system that would send text or voice messages to landlines and mobiles would help avert tragedies.
Victoria has pulled together, in this time of need, by the 13^th of February, $77 million had already been raised for The Red Cross and that isn't the end of it. With fundraisers still occurring and shops still sending proceeds from purchases it shows how caring Australians and those overseas who have contributed are.
Donations can also be made at any of the major banks: Commonwealth, Westpac, National Australia Bank, ANZ, Suncorp Metway or Bank of Queensland. Alternatively you can call on 1800 811 700 with your credit card details.
Blood supplies in Queensland and Victoria are also short and will be needed now and in the future. Go to www.redcross.org.au for more information.
For more information:
Victorian Bushfire Blog - How have they affected you and those you know?