Bushfire Devastation

On a balmy afternoon in April with no breeze and a gentle golden autumn sun illuminating the landscape, we visited some of the worst fire damaged areas of ‘Black Saturday’ – February 7th, 2009. The peaceful atmosphere of the day was very different from the 46 (c) degree heat and terribly strong winds in which over 170 people died in furnace like temperatures and a hurricane of rapidly moving fire. Two towns in our ‘backyard’, Kinglake and Marysville – were hard hit. We decided to visit them today to see the damage first hand.

IMGP4403

The area around both towns is extensively burnt. Kinglake has a population of just under 1500 people, whilst the population of Marysville is about six hundred. This number in Marysville probably doubles when you take into account the large number of guest houses and motels that flourished in this mountain retreat.

IMGP4407

Both towns are utterly devastated. Neither has a main street anymore – the shops, stores, petrol stations and community centres have all been burned to the ground. Many houses in both towns have been destroyed and all that remains is a chimney standing like a sentinel over the ruins and a conflagration of twisted metal roofing, bricks and building materials lying in a heap at ground level. Every now and then, for no explicable reason, there is an untouched house while buildings on either side have been totally destroyed. Bushfires seem to burn houses randomly. Perhaps it is luck that some have survived; more likely it is because of someone’s hard work in protecting their property and unbelievable courage in standing up to the fire and fighting to protect what they own.

IMGP4436

On one hand, we felt guilty about looking in on other people’s misfortune. Many people had an Australian flag flying at their gate and others had signs proclaiming their identification with the local community and desire to fight for the future. We took care not to take photos of individual properties.

On the other hand, seeing this devastation with our own eyes, gave us a real sense of the hardship that people were experiencing and we were glad to have been able to provide some support through donations.

IMGP4413

In both towns, there were people like us – driving quietly along and viewing the damage. No one said very much – their eyes were wide open and awe struck at the extent of the devastation. The environment looked just like pictures of scenes from villages damaged by shellfire in World War 1. Some people seemed to be interested in individual sites like a house, or a church where a heat blistered sign still showed some information about the name and denomination. Perhaps, some like us, were reminiscing about places where they had stayed or visited at some time in the past. Occasionally people would stop and take a photo of the road, the burnt forest or a blackened panorama. In one place at Marysville, a melted street light stood as a silent example of the ferocity of the flames.

IMGP4452

Within all of this damage, there is already progress. Teams of workers have sections of the towns closed off and they are removing rubble to prepare for rebuilding.

Nature, as always, has already started to make repairs. Just ten weeks after the fires, trees are beginning to coppice and tree ferns are sending up new fronds in the shape of walking sticks. Their new bright green coloured growth is a distinct contrast to the charcoal blackened background of the tree trunks in the burnt forest.

IMGP4434

IMGP4395

IMGP4426

Bruce

Bruce is a keen traveller and photographer. This web site describes his travel and family interests

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Every Day Life

Melbourne’s Immigration Museum

Not everyone gets to see interesting attractions in their own city. Yesterday, my Probus Club and I visited the Immigration Museum which is located in the grand old Customs House building on the bank of the Yarra River. It contains stories and histories of people from over 96 countries who have immigrated to Victoria since […]

Read More
Every Day Life

Our Winter’s Day Out in the Hills for Lunch

What better to do on a dismal wet winter’s day than to head to the hills for lunch. This weekend is the Queen’s birthday long holiday weekend. (I’m living in the past – it’s actually the King’s birthday long weekend, but since Queen Elizabeth was on the throne for virtually all my life, its hard […]

Read More
Every Day Life

Walking Around Melbourne’s World Famous Street Art Lanes and Alleyways

Melbourne is renowned for its vibrant street art scene, particularly in its laneways and arcades. These laneways are not just pedestrian thoroughfares but have become canvases for local and international artists, making the city a dynamic open-air gallery. I spent today with other members of my Probus Club exploring these interesting laneways. We generally followed […]

Read More