Sunday, February 15, 2009

trying to make sense of it all

We are all trying to make sense of this horrendous past week or so. Veteran ABC radio personality John Fain was heard to utter the phrase “If you are going to blame, blame early”, a parody on the bush fire alerts heard many times an hour on 774 that would end “if you are going to leave, leave early”.

And blame there is.

A suspected arsonist has been charged for the Churchill fires. No innocence til proven guilty for the locals on this one. Despite name suppression his identity is plastered to every lamppost in the town and he has become the definition of “dead man walking”. Don't get me wrong, any arsonist deserves the full force of the law - it's just vigilante action makes me feel very nervous.

This morning’s news lays the blame on the even more deadly Kilmore fire, that encompassed Kinglake, St Andrews and environs with a death toll of at least 100 and 1,000 houses destroyed, on the negligence of a power company. The State government and SP Ausnet are now the target of a class action, siting poor maintenance of a power line that allegedly fell and sparked the huge fire.

Global warming has had a huge look in.

Others get their revenge by blaming Greenies for being against regular burn offs of the bush and local legislation prohibiting some removal of trees from private property.

Lack of planning laws where the suburbs have met the bush has sparked spirited debate about the importance of “dugouts” and fire bunkers.

On and on it goes.

All I know is that is was darn hot on Saturday the 7th of February 2009. The mercury in Melbourne alone hit 46.4 C.

It has never been that hot in Melbourne before. With little or no humidity (around 4% at times) the dry air combined with the wind made the outside world a blast furnace. We took the government warnings seriously. Picnics were canceled. Air conditioning was cranked up. Oh and for some of us, supplies of beer were bought in. I bunkered down with a Queensland refugee in a spirit-of-the-blitz kind of way.

Which of course saying that now sounds shallow and facile.

In the height of it I snapped a quick shot of the chili plants burning before my eyes, before running back to the cool of the house and big slugs of chilled water.

The reality is this state is parched. I have never seen the local park looking so brown. The heat stressed trees are shedding their leaves as if it is autumn. It won’t be long before they drop big chunky branches on passing humans, pets or cars.

Maybe my insurance company was telling the truth when it told me that my proximity to inner city parks classified me as living in a bush fire zone? I know one thing for sure, if I thought the mooted 115% increase in this years home and contents policy was offensive, I hate to see what premiums are like next year after the companies cough up for all the bush fire damage and life insurances.

In the meantime, with a change in the wind, the city has been shrouded in smoke for the last couple of days. There is quiet mention of sore eyes, coughs and tainted washing on the line but no one is complaining. We just feel lucky to be relatively unscathed.

We are a nation that needs to make heroes. The CFA have long been mine, ordinary folk who volunteer to not just fight fires but attend all sorts of traumatic scenes as first responders til other emergency services can get there. It is amazing and wonderful that though there have been some casualties (a couple very serious), there have been no CFA fatalities that have cast an even greater pall over previous massive bush fires. Those wonderful women (and men) in the Red Cross, making sandwiches and other such tangible help as well as manning the phone for the appeal, running the blood bank and fronting the missing persons register do so without fame and glory. Even the new or lapsed blood donors deserve a pat on the back for contributing their bit.

However, for me there is a less likely ‘hero’ that has emerged from all this – social networking. An interactive board provided by The Age, helped me find out the fate of a client from Kinglake. I had some heart-warming email conversations with her neighbour who was looking for her, which ultimately resulted in good news provided by yet another stranger. Putting my plea out for a St Andrew’s family in great need of a rental home, may have struck gold through Facebook. While I only have 100-odd ‘friends’ many of mine have over 1,000. One wall message on a popular person's page has resulted in emails from the furthest coast of the country, trying to negotiate a family investment property for them in Melbourne. Whether this ultimately works out for them or not, it has made it more likely that the rental in question will get preference for a family affected by the fires.

We all just want to do something that makes us feel less useless in the face of all this horror.

I was going to write a post commemorating the anniversary this weekend of the allied bombing of Dresden in 1945, that killed 25,000 people in one night and the 100's murdered recently in the Gaza.

But one tragedy, even if it is comparatively insignificant, is all I can bear today.

Similar posts

Survivor guilt.

Putting it out there, trying to find a permanent home for just one family devastated by the fires.

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Anonymous ThirdCat said...

you've summed up so many of my thoughts from the last few days (again - your last post did too).

3:58 pm  
Blogger lucy tartan said...

Same here.

8:42 pm  
Blogger docwitch said...

Yup. Moi aussi.

For my part if blame is to be apportioned, (besides arsonists), I'm going the thump on global warming.

12:10 am  
Blogger F.G. Marshall-Stacks said...

AIR CON has an equal and opposite action: the unit pumps out HOT Air.
Consider that these thousands of AC units are INCREASING the temp on a hot day, and you might think we are re-staging The Fall Of The Roman Empire; but I do agree with you absolutely on all points above.

I have Survivor Guilt, in that I feel guilty I am in a good place when so many are not, and I cannot do a thing except put money everywhere it is being raised. That does not seem enough of a contribution - and don't get me started on N.Kidman's comparitively pissy little donation -
Sandra Bullock gave a whole million US$ to the tsunami fund.

9:01 am  

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