11 February 2009

fire

It feels very odd, trying to go about our daily life with all this going on. I go to work on my work days, school continues as usual for the children, grocery shopping is undertaken, cups of tea drunk, carpets vacuumed (well, occasionally). But the ABC radio (which becomes the emergency radio network in times of crisis) is on permanently at home and in the car, and the CFA website constantly open on my computer at work, as we watch and listen for updates and warnings.

With the fires affecting so many in our extended community, it seems everyone knows someone who has lost something or someone. The older two boys came back from school on Monday very sombre, saying one of the maths teachers has lost his house, and his sons are still missing. Son #3 came home from his school very shaky and fragile. There are a couple of children in his class who had the fire at their back fence.

The weather is now cooler and the wind coming from the south; our area/town/rural outer suburb is not under immediate threat from the existing out of control fires, but everyone is on tenterhooks as the land is bleached bone dry and the winds fickle. Yesterday the radio announced that an urgent threat message had been issued for our town, which caused a flurry of panic, text messages, emails and phone calls, only to have it retracted two minutes later as an error. Talk about jumpy? Oh yes.

The local CFA station is at the end of our street and every time the siren goes off (as it does frequently right now as you may imagine) my heart skips a beat and Son #3's eyes fill with tears. Our car is permanently packed with water, blankets and the ziplock bag full of important paperwork (passports, birth certificates etc) and our new bushfire plan is FLEE FLEE FLEE. (Flea? says the dog. Noooooo ... ) A house is just mud and sticks after all.

I just heard on the radio that only 18km separates two of the largest out of control fires northeast of the city and the fear is that they will merge into one gigantic megafire. The wind is awfully strong out there, and this morning I could see the smoke billowing over the Yarra Valley.

The latest news is here. The official death toll is 181 currently but will exceed 200 300.

So. What can be done to help those devastated by fire?

If you can offer accommodation for displaced people (do you have a caravan, a granny flat in your backyard, a holiday house?) please ring 1800 006468

The relief centres have been inundated with donations of clothing and shoes, but are urgently requesting NEW UNDERWEAR. Kids and adults sizes please.

Please do your grocery shopping at Coles THIS Friday, and Woolworths and Safeway NEXT Friday, as 100% of their profits will go to the bushfire relief fund.

The craft bloggers are raising funds. If you visit handmade helps out you can purchase handmade items and the money will go to the relief fund. You can also offer to make something for sale.

Pip at meet me at mikes has a huge list of links on her blog with ways you can help.

Honeybee Toys (branches in Montmorency and Malvern) is making up children's care packages. You can help by donating, or purchasing (or both!). Details are here. Spread the word.

You can donate money to the central relief fund at the Red Cross, online here.

Donations for wildlife rescue efforts can be made here.

You can donate blood.

Lots of bloggers are writing about the fires far more eloquently than I can. Barista wrote a thoughtful post - We lived again but life was different.

For those who are wondering out loud why on earth people were fighting the Kinglake fires in their shorts and thongs, or why they didn't implement their fire plans earlier, read this.

The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a very moving speech (motion) of condolence in the House of Representatives. Kim reproduces it here.

And Penni, who has been in the middle of it all, writes here.

I won't apologise for harping on and on. It must be tedious for the rest of the world but I think we are finding it hard to believe this is happening to US. Natural disasters with huge losses of life only happen in third world countries, right? Er, wrong. One day I'll post about other things again, but right now it feels totally bizarre, not to mention downright wrong, to open up my bloglines and find shiny happy posts about sewing, shopping, knitting or Valentines Day preparations.

41 comments:

CurlyPops said...

You put it beautifully. I can't write anything shiny and happy now either. Its all just so sad.

willywagtail said...

You are so right. Thanks for the links. I have actually started sewing again but it has taken it's toll on me and I live in NSW. I noticed an article that spoke about children not involved in the fires but simply seeing them on the telly having Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It sounds like your number 3 son may be heading towards this. Please give them all lots of hugs. Cherrie

zephyr said...

I've been thinking of you, your neighbors and countrymen and women ever since I heard and saw the terrible news. I'm so, so sorry this is happening.
Wishing everyone safety...and a good turn in the weather.

Stomper Girl said...

I think your fire plan is very sensible Suse. I hope the fire comes nowhere near you though. Your poor traumatised boys, and worse, their poor maths teacher. "Missing" is not a good word at present.

Blue Mountains Mary said...

It does. It does seem wrong.

So we shall do what we can do and quietly ask that the terror end.

Thimbleanna said...

Thank you so much for all the links Suse. It's so hard for those of us so far away to comprehend what you are all going through. So very, very sad. Stay safe.

fifi said...

Those of us in nsw are being discouraged to donate items, but The Red Cross is probably the best thing. I have given my weeks housekeeping.


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Poppy Buxom said...

Thanks for the links. Americans are so far away and feel so helpless. It's good to know we can do something.

Stay safe and hug that sensitive boy of yours.

BabelBabe said...

i have been following the CFA site, and thinking of you all every day so much. Stay as safe as you can, and I love you.

sharon said...

I follow your blog regularly and this one has been very informative. I had the red cross contact but see another I want to contact, too. We in Southern California understand some of what you are going thru, but it is never the same. We are keeping all of your country in our thoughts. This too will pass.

Melanie said...

Keep Safe Suse. Just occasionally, I am happy to live just that bit closer in, even though in our heart of hearts we would like to return to regional Vic. I've always told my husband that if/when we do, my bushfire plan would be of the 'flee' variety too, but what to do when even fleeing is no guarantee? Terrifying.

craftydabbler said...

I am so sorry. Thank you for writing about what is going on and passing along ways to help. You are all in my thoughts.

herhimnbryn said...

There's a link to the Red Cross over a my place too.

Take care of yourselves dear soup family.

Anonymous said...

Stay safe all of you , we're all thinking of you and can only hope that the nightmare ends soon . Geraldine

Anonymous said...

Stay safe and calm. I understand that the "material" happiness of others bothers you. Everything gets different to you, right? Life is just like that! You loose the value of things when you notice that the life (spirit) is more important then everything else!
A lot of light and strenght to you and to yours from Portugal (sorry for my ritten bad english).
Raquel Perdigão

Gina said...

It is hard for us so far away to comprehend the awfulness of what has happened to you but please don't think you are being tedious. This was an excellent post and thank you for all the links. I think we all want to help in whatever way we can. Stay safe. Gina x

samantha said...

thank you for harping
keep safe
x Sam

M said...

It does seem wrong to write about happy and shiny things at the moment, so I don't. However, I wonder whether I am right. Whether the fact that life goes on and that others are living it is in fact a symbol of hope for those who have lost so much.

It is hard to think that at the moment so I think quiet contemplation is my current MO. It is heart-wrenching and yet important to hear from those of you closest to the front line.

janet said...

I can't bring myself to write about anything yet - and I live in town. Grave times indeed. We've been getting short updates every day at work and I noticed today that there were still a lot off leaky eyes in the room, even from the big burly guys. No-one from my office has been sent to help yet, but quite a few of us have said we can and will if required. And then wonder if we would measure up to the task.

All that aside there is still much we can do as you said. Big Hugs and stay safe xox

Anonymous said...

No this is not tedious. Please keep us all updated. My son has a special affection for your country he and his college friends. So from Texas there is much interest. We know what brush fires are like. Thank you for all of those links I am forwarding to others. Keep safe. Kathleen in Texas.

eurolush said...

Though we're very far away from you in southern Australia...I think we're all united in our common hope that these terrible fires will end soon and some healing can begin.

I don't think anyone thinks you're harping on about what you're living through right now, Suse. We're all stunned by what we've seen on the news...so much tragedy.
I'm amazed at your organization and clear-thinking under the conditions you're living in right now.

I can't imagine how scary this would be to live through. I feel for everyone--adults and children alike. Stay strong. We're all praying for you.

vivian said...

it IS eerie, especially being sooo far away and in the midst of snow storms in the states, to be reading about record-breaking heat and deadly infernos. i know how frightening fire is, how alive it is, and i feel for you and your family and am glad you're safe! i'm trying to help out however i can from here, but it's one time when it doesn't feel like a small world after all.

sherry said...

Never tedious. We want to know. It puts it in far better perspective than a couple of paragraphs with death count on CNN or BBC.

Stay safe, be well. We're all thinking of your part of the world.

valerie said...

Just a note to say hello. I recently found your blog. So very sorry to here about the fires, the sadness. I live in the US, Montana. Fires are not strangers to my part of the world either. The past two years we've had fires too close to home as well. It is a very tense time, but reaching out to others helps the spirit tremendously. Keep up the wonderful work your doing!

alice c said...

sobering stuff - take care

Marilla said...

I appreciate all that you have written, because even though I am in the U.S., I am praying daily for you and your fellow Australians. It is hard to imagine what people are suffering and how scary it must be. The only positive thing that comes out of a disaster like this is the way people care for each other. Stay safe. I hope you don't have to flee.

badmomgoodmom said...

> I think we are finding it
> hard to believe this is happening to US. Natural disasters > with huge losses of life only happen in third world
> countries, right? Er, wrong.

No, they happen everywhere. People live in hazardous places because they have no other choice, or because they have too many choices.

I live in the wildfire-prone southern California. I am also an earth scientist and blog about wildfires:
http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/search/label/Wildfire

willowcaroline said...

Thinking of your country, and your people, and holding you in the light, hoping that the fires can be contained and hoping that healing can soon begin. And praying you and yours stay safe. Please continue to keep us posted.

peppermintpatcher said...

The ins and outs of every day life do indeed seem trivial. I'm so sorry to hear that your boys find themselves so close to this tragedy.

Melanie said...

We are just on the city fringe near the Yarra Valley and I could smell smoke when I got off the train from the city tonight. Just as I was reading your post, and concurring with your feelings, we had a momentary blackout - thankfully the power came back on before I had a complete panic! I know this smoke is just from some back burning down the road, but I still feel a bit anxious, and at the same time I think about the terror felt by those who have been confronting these ferocious fires, and tell myself not to be ridiculous.

manda said...

Your words are beautiful , straight from the heart. And right now, thats all that is important. x

Rachel said...

Here in Britain, where our ties to your country are so strong, with friends and family so far away, we worry and wait for news, we agonise over the ever-increasing death toll, and we listen to the eye-witness accounts with terrible helplessness.

And we go back to our sewing, and baking, and blogging about the small quiet things in our lives, but we hold you in our hearts, and hope that one day you will all be able to go back to those serene and replenishing activities too. Please keep us posted; we need to know how it is for you.

Jean said...

Your blog was so touching, our Southern California wildfires pale in comparison, I understand about the drying winds and the bone dry landscape, this brings back vivic memories from our last fire. Please keep safe and do your best to comfort your dear children, family and friends. I do hope you have some masks to wear if the air gets too filled with ash.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Melbourne 35 years ago. I remember how hot it could get and I remember seeing a tree combust all by itself out in the countryside, very weird. I now live in an area in California (so like the countryside of australia) that in 1991 had a terrible firestorm that burned hundreds of houses and killed many people. After living through something like that you never take life for granted anymore. Australians are among the most blessed people on the earth. Take care of each other and this too shall pass.

Isabelle said...

Oh Suse, never tedious. We're all so upset for you - and you yourselves are so near it all; I didn't realise. Hope it all gets under control very very soon.

meggie said...

There are no words.

nova_j said...

(((hugs))) you are all in our minds constantly over here in NZ.. i just wish we could send some of our wet weather over your way where it would be useful, but it is certainly making everyone here think twice about being ungrateful!

hoping your & yours stay safe!

Anonymous said...

No, natural disasters with huge losses of life can happen anywhere. Our prayers are with you. What you describe is so real and personal to us here in New Orleans, USA. Different disaster, same feelings--watching the horizon, loading up for the evacuation which might or might not come. The stress of being glued to the media reports. The tears. Helping those we can, holding those we can. Please remember there are people everywhere who care and are reaching out to you.

Auntie Mabel said...

I'm normally a silent lurker here - but wanted to say how much this has been in my thoughts. Thank you for your words - we spent some very precious time in Melbourne three months ago, and feel desperate when we hear this about places we visited.

Victoria said...

So scary. It must be really hard on your kids to have to worry about whether they'll have to jump in the car and go all of a sudden (not to mention you), really hard. Feel free to write on and on about it - it's a huge time.
Congrats on being the custodian of a fifteen year old!

Rae said...

I am so, so sorry. My brother is there and lost friends as well. We are praying here in India. Love to you!