Sunday, February 8, 2009


Being reasonably new to Australia, the concept of bushfires is a developing understanding. When we lived in Wellington, earthquakes were a real, tangible fear, we'd felt small and medium sized ones, with each shake creating that horrific feeling of helplessness and "is this the big one?". I had kind of placed bushfires in the "Things to worry about living in Australia" with snakes, posionous spiders and freshwater crocs. I didn't really have any "feeling" about them - they were simply not tangible yet, they hadn't touched me.

Until this weekend.

Friday night we smell smoke. We are two houses and a football field away from a national park. We don't quite know what to do, we don't hear any sirens, so we go to bed. It turns out there were bush fires 6 or so suburbs away.

Saturday night, we flick on the news to see 14 people have been killed in bushfires in Victoria. We started watching, and understanding, and feeling. And today we are still watching. And now there are 108 people killed, with more expected. We have watched fire sprinting across the ground, destroying everything. The speed and magnitude of the fire is heartbreaking. We have seen incinerated cars parked haphazardly in clusters as fire must have surrounded these poor people thinking they could escape in their cars. I would have thought the same. We have seen people interviewed on TV, displaying only trauma and raw grief for the tragedy, none of the usual nerves when being interviewed for national TV, simply shock and disbelief. Their faces reflecting the horror and incomprehensibility of what they have just survived. All we can do is shake our heads and understand.

And there is talk that this tragedy may have been intentional.

Arsonists, firebugs ..... murderers.

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