The fires had been extreme and had been burning for a long when I made that post, however since then things have got a lot worse. These fires are unprecedented in scale and ferocity. New years eve brought fires in Victoria and New South Wales beyond anything most of you from other countries would ever have experienced or could likely imagine. The same could be said for some of the earlier fires.
My family has been contacted by most (all I think) of our overseas friends and relatives with pretty much the same questions.
- Is this real? Are our TV networks (pick your country/TV network) just sensationalising it? Answer: - Everything they told us they had seen on TV sounded correct, my YouTube searches seemed to show that the reports I found from the various USA networks and the BBC have been surprisingly accurate.
- It can't really be this big, that many fires over such distances, area and time, or can it? Answer: - Yes it can and is. Its also not over yet and is only the beginning of our fire season.
- Are you in danger? Answer: - no, well, not from the current fires, the risk is if a new fire starts near us, if it does we will evacuate, the house is insured. I have prepared our farm as much as I can but then I looked at my daughters and wife and just thought "its not worth the risk of me staying to fight it here for us at this time, they need me still and it could easily become very dangerous"
- From the Kiwis (New Zealand) "It must be bad over there because we are getting the smoke". They are getting smoke from here, the closest fires in Australia are about two thousand kilometres away. They are also getting ash falling out which is obvious on some of their glaciers.
Some of the numbers may give you some idea of what these fires are like. It is true that flames in the gum tree forests have reach heights of 70m (210 feet) high, and in cases like that or even where flames only reach the top of the trees, the radiant heat is truly stupendous. I suspect you have to have seen this first hand (as I have) to truly understand the energy involved. Eucalyptus trees (there are something like 2800 varieties) are full of eucalyptus oil and burn like petrol when its hot. However they are very unlikely to die in a fire, they have evolved to survive in a fire that would kill almost anything else. These are not like pine trees for example. Most of our trees will just grow back, we will not need to "replant" the native gum trees.
It is true that the satellite images showed that the smoke plume from the NSW/Vic fires at one time did cover an area of a size equivalent of the entirety of Europe from Ireland to the edge of Russia, I mean not including Russia.
The total area currently burnt in Australia is larger than some small countries, or about half of England. So far the authorities are only quoting two thousand houses having been destroyed.
These fires have been or still are burning in the states of Qld, NSW, Vic, SA and WA.
The high way across the nullarbor plain has been closed for 11 days now due to fires in WA. This is the Eyre Hwy that I have talked about a few months ago, that is part of Australia's highway 1, it goes across the outback between Adelaide and Perth (about 2000km).
For perspective when looking at maps etc. Australia is very large (6th largest country in the world) but has a small population. A week or so ago there was a state of emergency declared in Vic and NSW and an evacuation was ordered for just a bit of the North east of Vic and a small bit of the south east of NSW, however this "small bit" is an area of land about the same size as a small European country. For those from USA, you usually seem to think Texas is big, but I think the only mainland state of Australia smaller than Texas is Victoria. The locals could stay if they had a plan and equipment to fight the fires, it was mostly the tourists, people on holidays and the locals who would not be fighting the fires that were told to leave. However this created huge traffic jambs. Its about 230km from Bega to Canberra.
I grew up in the Aussie bush and have seen/fought many bush fires. Like most Aussies farmers etc. in the bush, I would normally stay and fight if I had adequate equipment and felt I could cope with it. These fires have been on a different scale. I trucked in many loads of water so that all my tanks are full, my dam is over half full etc. I had already sold all my cattle due to the drought, so I assessed the risk here on this specific property and decided it could be a difficult dangerous fight for various reasons including the terrain. It is school holidays here so most days I am responsible for my daughters on the farm alone while my wife is in town at work. So it would be stupid beyond belief to stay and risk my four daughter's' lives for what are only possessions (house etc.). By the way, the local bushfire brigade captain agreed rather emphatically and told be to take my precious girls and evacuate, at the first sign of a fire (he knows my girls well and thinks they are delightful apparently and I agree with him!)
So in summary, do not worry about me personally but the devastation in general has been unprecedented and wild life that can not go underground, fly or run/hop rather fast will have been killed on a massive scale. Koalas are particularly vulnerable, since when frightened their instinct is to climb as high as possible up a tree, but this time in many places the flames have been over twice the height of even the largest trees. The disease Chlamydia has already been a massive problem for large populations of Koalas, Kangaroo Island's population had been Chlamydia free since they are isolated from the main land so a massive hit to their population of Koalas is of even more concern.
A very large number of sheep, cattle and other farm animals have been killed. Many of the properties burnt that we thought would be safe or at least defendable.
I am NOT asking anyone to donate any money to anywhere, but if any of you do decide to please only donate to well know existing charities/organisations. DO NOT pay anything to any idiots on "go fund me" and the like, many are scams or at the very least selfish idiots. I can give you some tips if you need any help. It is true that the amounts already offered/donated have been extraordinary large. Charities, by law, must be registered in Australia and have some over sight to try to ensure that donations are spent appropriately and of course they are not taxed.