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No End In Sight

The latest for this morning: 181 confirmed dead, 3,000 square kilometers [1200 miles²] and over 900 homes destroyed. No word on the loss of pets, stock, and wildlife.

There are more than 30 fires still burning and the wind from the South is starting to rise. Unfortunately this is far from over.

Jack, Grumpy Forester who has been on the lines fighting wildfires, adds some perspective [which I missed yesterday {stupid caching}].

18 comments

1 Lab Kat { 02.10.09 at 12:00 pm }

It really angers me how little attention this is getting in the media over here. Like Australia is some third-world country not worth paying attention to.

Lab Kat´s last blog post..What is happening to me?!?

2 Bryan { 02.10.09 at 4:03 pm }

The media have shut down their foreign bureaus to save money for executive salaries, and the AP doesn’t provide ready-made stories for them to run on their news programs.

For most of the people in charge only The City, LA, and DC exist.

3 LadyMin { 02.10.09 at 6:30 pm }

I too have noticed very little coverage on network television. My local morning news had a short clip yesterday and today, and my newspaper is has coverage. People I know are aware of the fires but have no idea of the severity of it.

LadyMin´s last blog post..Random Identity Generator

4 Kryten42 { 02.10.09 at 7:18 pm }

Thanks again Bryan, and Jack. I read your post and you are right. Lab Cat: Yeah, I know what you mean. But at least we have the Internet and blogs like this for news. 🙂

I’m feeling worn out to be honest. There is a lot going on right now in my life. One thing I should point out, for perspective’s sake, is that I live in a very outer suburb in Melbourne near Mt. Dandenong and whilst we are relatively safe from the fires, they have come within 5KM of us, and in fact one fire started within 2KM but was quickly extinguished.

Latest update @ 11:40 AM Wed:

Police investigators are estimating that the death toll could top 300. They say that there are about 100 people still unaccounted for in Marysville alone. Over 500 people have been treated for burns, and about 100 are considered serious and have been admitted to hospitals. Victoria’s burns units are stretched to the limit and the Army is setting up field hospitals and have burns specialists ready. Other States and NZ have also offered to evac burns victims to their Hospitals. The Army is also setting up ‘tent cities’ which basically take a day to offload and setup complete with living quarters, a mess (kitchen/dining tent), bathrooms, laundry facilities and a small medical unit.

People around the world are being very generous and it’s highly appreciated. Even Qld flood victims are donating what they can (and many of them don’t have much now) to Vic fire victims!

I read somewhere on Monday (I think, the days are kinda running together) that it’s estimated that between 10,000 to 15,000 native wildlife have been killed, and several thousand livestock and pets also. The Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary has been forced to evacuate it’s endangered species because of the fire and it has sustained some damage. This would be a tragic loss as Healseville is home to several rare species and is one of the few places in the World that have had successful breeding programs for some of these.

Fires force Healesville zoo evacuation

And, just to prove our bureaucrats are the same as bureaucrats everywhere:
Centrelink ‘cruel joke’ angers bushfire victims
Centerlink are *responsible* (ha, ha) for Pensions and unemployment benefits. Like similar organisations around the World, their job is to make it as difficult as possible so that people will just give up and the official unemployment figures and payouts will be lower than they really should be, so the Gov looks better (on paper, to bean counters). Of course, we all know it’s a sham. 🙂

Last piece of news:
Fears out-of-control fires will create massive blaze

5 Bryan { 02.10.09 at 9:58 pm }

The US has a top flight burn unit at the military medical complex in San Antonio, if anyone remembers to contact them, and being military they have mobility with some services. They have a lot of experience, unfortunately, because of all the wars the Hedgemony has started.

On the slide show at ABC they have the picture of the puddles of metal left when the alloy wheels on a car melted. That is extremely heat for a wood fire.

Yeah, they pulled that ID crap after Katrina with people telling the clerks that their wallets were under 10-feet of water and if they wanted it so bad, they could dive for it. With the War on Terror, establishing ID should be a snap. Hell, even in Florida they can bring up your picture and signature from your last license with just your name and address. I assume Howard got into all of that crap.

Just looking at it, I would assume that kangaroos would be about the only things with the speed and endurance to outrace the fire. Some of the burrowing animals might make it, but most were doomed.

When people re-build, they might want to consider a concrete safe room, something we are using here for hurricanes. It would be a last resort bolt hole, but a good place to store documents and pets if you aren’t sure about leaving.

Obviously the strength of the winds was a big factor in the loss of life. There wasn’t even time after they kicked in – the fire was too hot and to fast to be out run, even in a car.

6 Kryten42 { 02.10.09 at 10:25 pm }

Yes. People who stayed to fight the fires and died really had no idea what they would face. That’s the Gov fault. They were warned that this would be unlike anything seen here before weeks earlier and they did nothing. If people had understood the severity of the fire, I suspect most would have gathered what they could take and left before the fires arrived. Many people only had less than a half hours warning.
Locals under threat blast ‘lack of info, mixed messages’

Yeah, bunkers. One senior Architect said this was more like The Gaza Strip than the normal bushfires we are *used* to:

Architect calls for bunkers in fire zone homes

And then, we have this summary from National Nine News:
Bushfire arsonists strike again in Victoria

7 Jack K., the Grumpy Forester { 02.10.09 at 10:38 pm }

…thanks for the link, Bryan. I was thinking about the increased death toll announced today and got to ruminating that when one thinks about all the wildfires large and small that have burned in and around populated areas in our country over the years, you probably have to go back to the early decades of the 20th century to find casualty rates that even hold a dim candle to what is going on in southern Australia right now. It’s hard to tell because of the lack of general coverage, but this has the feel of those Southern California/Santa Ana wind episodes we’ve seen far to often over the last few years…

I’ve seen stories that say that one of the problems is that much of the firefighting force is voluntary, but that doesn’t matter in conditions like this, because the most highly trained full-time force in the world isn’t going to stop wind-driven fire like these; the best you can do is try to keep the flanks from spreading and engage in some occasionally extremely exciting structure protection. I’ve seen other stories suggesting that down-wind spot fires are starting as many as 25 km. ahead of the flame front; if true, that is simply astounding; the most I’ve ever seen or heard of – even with fires being pushed by sustained 50 – 60 kph winds, has been more on the order of 10 km or less. It is almost impossible to fully comprehend just how extreme the conditions must be in the south such that they are seeing this sort of fire behavior and human tragedy on such a scale…

Kryten42, please accept my prayerful hopes for your well-being and a departing comment I and some of my buddies used to say back in the day when we were young and healthy and on the fire line: good luck, man; be safe….

8 Bryan { 02.10.09 at 10:59 pm }

I will include the ABC story on those SOBs in my next update. At least there are some witnesses and descriptions on the pyro-bastards.

The big thing about the safe rooms down here, is that they are a last resort, and you can leave all of your paperwork and files in there if you do decide to leave at the last minute, without worrying about forgetting anything. They have also proven handy for tornadoes.

Most people “furnish” them with their lawn furniture which has to be secured anyway, and it’s a good place to store all of your emergency supplies and camping gear.

I would recommend that they look into the “reverse 911” system that they use in the use, where local government robocalls all of the local telephone numbers, as well as the many texting options available for cell phone users. There are a lot of new ways of reaching people that don’t involve the traditional media systems.

9 Bryan { 02.10.09 at 11:40 pm }

Jack, looking at the pictures I’ve been amazed by the flame heights of hundreds of feet based on tree heights. The other problem unique to the Australian fires is the presence of eucalyptus trees, which in warm weather generate a highly flammable oil vapor. When you combine the high winds with the vapor you have an effective fuel-air bomb.

You saw some of that in the San Diego fires, because eucalyptus is a very common shade tree in the county, especially in newer neighborhoods and along the roads in the more exclusive areas of the county. Santa Anas are hot and dry, so the vapor would be produced. The San Diego trees don’t grow as tall as those in Australia, normally topping out at 50 or 60 feet for old, established trees in Rancho Santa Fe which are probably 100 years old.

10 Kryten42 { 02.10.09 at 11:54 pm }

Thanks Jack, seriously. 🙂 And yeah…I and old friends used to say something very similar. 🙂

I agree Bryan. I guess we’ll see what the Royal Commission finds when it finishes it’s report in a year or so. Probably to late to stop the next one. *sigh*

A preliminary report I happened across (via a friend) is that some people and animals actually died from asphyxiation rather than burns or toxic air. They had no oxygen. That’s like a fuel-air bomb or a nuke without the gamma radiation. Some flames rose over 80meters, and some fireballs were seen being hurled hundreds of meters. The more I learn, the more I am truly amazed there are any survivors at all.

11 Kryten42 { 02.10.09 at 11:57 pm }

PS. You are correct about the Eucalypts. The oil is what the Koala Bears love, and it’s like a soporific for them. 🙂 People can pick up and cuddle a Koala if it’s had a good supply of a certain Eucalypt. They are vicious little bastards that will rip your face off otherwise! Trust me! LOL

12 Bryan { 02.11.09 at 12:28 am }

Just so you know we aren’t total screw-ups in this country, although, truth be told the reason we have things like “reverse 911” and testing broadcasts is because we total failures earlier due to a lack of information getting out to people.

The National Weather Service has a chain of radio stations around the US on special frequencies. The receivers are cheap, and they can be turned on by an alert signal which is handy for tornadoes and other weather emergencies. Normally they repeat the local forecast on a loop, so no one would want to leave them on all the time.

As for your local “teddy bears” – they have huge claws man. They don’t need claws like that to climb trees or eat leaves, so they have to be considered weapons. I know from personal experience the damage that the relatively minor claws on domestic cats can do to the human body, so no one needs to convince me that koalas are psychos waiting to attack. There is a reason for those claws, and getting high on herbs can lead to the munchies.

13 Kryten42 { 02.11.09 at 1:07 am }

Heh… We’ve managed to get a couple thing right in this Country also. And I’m certain that was more by accident than design. 😉 LOL

Yup! Koala’s are EVIL! You take their hit away, and they are like a Heroin addict dry for a few days looking for a score.

As I’ve said to LadyMin… pretty much everything here will kill you, given the opportunity. Even the trees.

14 Bryan { 02.11.09 at 12:28 pm }

It would appear that in most of the world politicians won’t do anything constructive unless there are grave mounds to stand on.

15 LadyMin { 02.11.09 at 12:58 pm }

Politicians never act, they only react. They are very good at that here in Chicago.

And speaking of Koala Bears…. today’s newspaper article updating the fires was accompanied by a photo of a rescued Koala drinking from a bottle of water. He looked deceptively docile and cuddly.

16 Bryan { 02.11.09 at 2:51 pm }

They probably tranked him, or buzzed him up with leaves for the picture.

It’s like telling people that the cats outside my house are feral. It usually requires a blood donation before they understand what that really means.

17 Kryten42 { 02.11.09 at 4:52 pm }

It’s like the Wombats and Platypus. 🙂 People think Wombats are just cuddly plush toys on short legs. They don’t realise that a pissed-off Wombat can sprint up to 60-80 Km/h for a short distance and have a very hard head to ram things that annoy them. They will ram your legs (and usually break them), then while you are down, ram your head. No more threat. 🙂 Luckily for many tourists, the Platypus is very skittish and will disappear fast if anyone is around. Otherwise, they will find out that the male Platypus carries the deadliest toxin known to man in a spur in it’s hind leg. 🙂

And yeah… feral cats can be nasty, especially in a pack. I’ve seen what they can do.

18 Bryan { 02.11.09 at 5:40 pm }

It stands to reason that if you live in an environment that would just as soon kill you as support your life, it is probable that you have some nastiness among your kit. They are still marsupials and, in the case of Mr. Mallard Beaver, egg laying species because there was no need to go any further. They were the fittest for the environment and they survived where lions and tigers and bears couldn’t hack it.

People are really weird when it comes to perceiving threats. You have to wonder how they survived until they could develop atomic weapons, because in general they “educate” themselves out of survival.