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Victorian Bushfires: Network 10 News

 

The sky turned red

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Victorian Bushfires

The Victorian bush fires are the most tragic event in the state’s history and Australia’s worst bushfire disaster.

 

Fifteen separate infernos, driven by erratic 100kh/km winds and record temperatures across the state, ripped through towns in rugged bushland, northeast of Melbourne.

On Friday (February 6th), the Victorian Emergency Services warned people to avoid travel on country and coastal roads over the weekend, due to the unprecedented fire danger forecast.

 

During the following days, more than 200 people died, at least 750 homes were destroyed, and more than 400,000 hectares of forest were burnt out.

 

Black Saturday Weather

Victorian Premier John Brumby linked the fires to global warming. ‘There's clear evidence now that the climate is becoming more extreme,’ he said. ‘These were unbelievable circumstances.’

A royal commission judicial enquiry will examine the circumstances that enabled the fires, planning laws, current fire policy and the emergency services’ response. ‘We want to make sure that every single issue, every single factor, everything in relation to the horrific weekend, to the horrific fires on Saturday is investigated and uncovered,’ he said.

Ferocious winds drove the avalanche of flames that descended upon homes within minutes.

Those who stayed to protect their homes and loved ones faced had to decide: Do we stay and face probable death or to clutch at survival and flee? The speed and intensity of the fire storms left people with nowhere to go. Whether people died or survived was a matter of chance.

Confronted by an inferno of 40m-high walls of flames, many who fled in cars were impeded by thick, black smoke and collided with other cars or drove off the road and perished.

 

The Science

CSIRO researcher Andrew Sullivan warns that the number of extreme weather days will increase. He has no doubt that southern Australia’s long drought combined with a number of days of extreme heat fuelled the bushfires.

Research into bushfire behaviour, by CSIRO and the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, is improving the understanding of the fundamental processes involved in the behaviour of bushfires, and leading to better technologies and strategies to save lives and limit damage.

 

The Reality

According to Country Fire Authority deputy chief John Haynes, “We prepared for a king tide, but it was more like a tsunami. We had more people on the ground on Saturday than any other day in history,” he said. Two days later, more than 270 fire trucks continue to battle fires across Victoria, and 50 towns remain on red alert.

 

The Aftermath

With time the scorched earth will fade, but the emotional scars – the intense grief, shock and pain – won’t. From the eye of the fire storm one survivor observed in disbelief ‘everything’s lost, everything’s gone’.

Despite this, he commandeered an abandoned vehicle then collected a dozen neighbours and took them to safety. ‘We never want to return. We can never go back without being reminded of the horror of that day,’ he said.

At community centres where survivors recover, some families clutch their treasured pets – dogs on leashes and birds in cages. But there are no cats, horses, or livestock. Under the circumstances these animals were left behind. Carcasses of native wildlife – kangaroos that once bounded through the bush – litter the charred moonscape.

As nature begins to heal itself, rural communities including beef producers, orchardists, grape growers and trout farmers realise the long-term devastation to their crops, breeding stock, and livelihoods. But random acts of kindness sustain them through their grief as farmers across the country contribute feed for stock and personal support.

 

Rebuilding Green

The reconstruction of these devastated Victorian towns has been guaranteed by State and Federal governments.

Green Cross Australia is encouraging the design of construction of sustainable houses that are fire-resistant, and energy and water efficient; houses that incorporate passive solar design, insulation, and natural heating and cooling; houses that don’t require as much energy to keep occupants warm in winter and cool in summer.

Read more about the rebuild green program.

 

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