The downside of summer – other than the endless hot, dry weather, which is not as much fun as you might imagine, and the constant dual risk of sunburn and heatstroke – is fire season. So many things can start a bushfire: a cigarette tossed out a car window by a clueless tourist, an unmanaged BBQ, a freak lightning storm (sadly not accompanied by a summer rain), a spark from an angle-grinder, a gum tree overheating in the 40+ degree (celcius) weather and spontaneously combusting due to the oils it exudes into the air, …
It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, how they start though. What matters is the broadcast text message from the Department of Fire & Emergency Services saying ‘bushfires in your area, prepare to evactuate or actively defend’. The nervous wait while you hope that its a small fire, that its easily contained, that the wind dies down. The neighbour who tells you that this happens every year, and three years ago it got close enough that they could see the flames on the ridge. What matters is making the decision to leave the house, just in case, because there are fires north, south, and west of you and the wind is picking up and blowing east. Driving through the road blocks as they’re being set up to prevent people going where you just came from.
Fire season is scary.
WA hasn’t had any fire tornadoes (yet) but just plain old fires are still scary. Five people have died already this summer in the fires in Esperance, on the south coast. At the moment we have the relatively easy evacuation option of packing the cats into the car and driving to my parents house, but the more animals we get the harder that decision will be. How hard must it be for people with horses, or cattle, if I felt bad about leaving our week old guinea fowl keets and our chickens?
We left on Sunday evening. It looks like we can probably go home tonight. The fires have been downgraded to “advice” level (no current danger to lives or homes but watch for changes to conditions and have a plan for what to do if conditions worsen) rather than “emergency” (extreme threat to lives and homes) or “watch and act” (threat to lives and homes, leave now or prepare to actively defend).
In spite of the risks, the fires have (so far) not actually approached our house. The roads were closed but as of this morning there have been no fatalities from this fire, and only one house and two sheds have been lost. And having had a big burn this earlky int he season, we’re much less likely to see another big, dangerous fire in this area this summer, because evrything flammable has already burned off.
Makes you think, though. Without the fire fighters, and the air support planes and helicopters watching the spread & direction of the fire front and dumping water on it, fires like that would just blaze through an entire district. leaving ash and scorchmarks behind them. Moral of the story: this is not the place to wait out the zombie apocalypse if civilisation (and its associated benefits, like fire fighters and roads and early warning systems) fail.