Join 3,519 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Victoria's Bushfires
February 7, 2009 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Many places in Victoria are on fire. Victoria's Bushfires can help you keep track of the current situation around Melbourne.

The death toll is rising and the media is calling this the worst disaster since the horrific Ash Wednesday fires of 1983.
posted by mosessis (209 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jesus. Those photgraphs of the multiple car pileups. Don't they tell a story. What a way to go.

The third flash clip down is worth a look. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25024630-601,00.html
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:10 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a friend overseas whose family live in Kinglake. When she last heard from them, her mother was at the emergency centre, and her dad was on their property preparing to defend it. They can't reach one another because of power poles fallen across the roads.

It felt as if we were so much better prepared now than at the time of Ash Wednesday... I lived in a rural area then and there were no community meetings or personal fire plans... but still. All those people. And critters.

There's a 'How can I help?' page here on the ABC website with information about donations, stock agistment, etc, and a blog for people to directly offer support like accommodation, transport help, etc.
posted by andraste at 12:31 AM on February 8, 2009


I came to post this as well. Here in near Sydney we have had several days of 40 celsius plus over much of the city, but that is mild compared to where the fires are.
Reports say 500+ homes destroyed, 65+ dead. Its hard to believe, as Australia has probably the most sophisticated wildfire response in the world. 4500+ trained firefighters are on the ground, and lots of air support (often off-season Canadian aircraft leased for our summer). The worst fires are an hour or so north of Melbourne, the second largest city in Oz, with other substantial fires dotted around the state, and country.
There are reports one of the main power stations for Melbourne could also be threatened.
posted by bystander at 12:51 AM on February 8, 2009


.
posted by robcorr at 12:53 AM on February 8, 2009


One of the bureau of meteorology forecasters was speaking on the radio yesterday about the heat wave, particularly in South Australia. He mentioned it was a new record of 35+ celsius days in a row, now 15, beating out the twelve from a couple of years ago. The record before then was about six, decades ago. There is a general acceptance that this is climate change driven.
posted by bystander at 12:54 AM on February 8, 2009


The #bushfires hashtag on Twitter is up-to-date with local news and information about how to help.

Apart from cash donations, the Red Cross wants blood donors.
posted by robcorr at 12:57 AM on February 8, 2009


Was just reading this terrible news - I'd been aware of the droughts and abnormally high temperatures but coming from damp old England never even thought about the possibility of brushfires. Whole of north China's in another prolonged drought too; suspect it's only massive deforestation that's prevented similar disaster here.
posted by Abiezer at 1:06 AM on February 8, 2009


Marysville has been completely destroyed, apparently. The fires are being called the worst in Victoria since European settlement. The weather here's been obscene for the past couple of weeks, so some fires were bound to happen, but once again, the fact that these were deliberately lit just beggars belief. What kind of fuckwit lights fires on a 46 degree day? I hope they were the first caught.
posted by pompomtom at 1:23 AM on February 8, 2009


So, whenever there's massive fires like this, there's a chance that the fires are arson.
And, yes, absolutely, capture the arsonists and lock them up, or whatever it is you do to criminals.
But... well, if it wasn't arson, it was going to be a lightning strike, or some other damned thing.
Fires like this aren't the product of their proximate cause, they're a confluence of agrivating factors including the climate of the earth.
posted by Richard Daly at 1:29 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've just read that some fucker is going around re-lighting the fires after the CFA has put them out.

I can't even be angry about it. It just makes me ashamed to be human.
posted by robcorr at 1:29 AM on February 8, 2009


.
posted by gstone at 1:30 AM on February 8, 2009


I really think they deserve to be charged as murderers. In fact, I agree, and hope that the fires fucking got them, and that they suffered a lot.

I'm not a violent person in general, and I don't believe in the death penalty. But for this I kind of do.

The deathtoll is at 75 at the time of writing this. Worse than Ash Wednesday. Looks like it will be worse than Black Friday - the worst fires in Australian History.

Marysville is, well, was, my favourite place on earth. So many many memories there.
posted by jonathanstrange at 1:39 AM on February 8, 2009


But... well, if it wasn't arson, it was going to be a lightning strike, or some other damned thing.

I don't think they're mutually exclusive... and we've only got so many fireys.
posted by pompomtom at 1:50 AM on February 8, 2009


Satellite image of the fires and smoke plume.

Aerial photograph of Marysville. More scenes of devastation from The Age.
posted by netbros at 1:53 AM on February 8, 2009


ABC Radio Victoria has been in rolling-coverage mode since late last night. Listening to the station in the early hours of this morning was absolutely heartbreaking. It's the main station used by emergency services to communicate with the public, so every now and then small towns would be told that the fire front was headed straight for them and there would not be time to evacuate.

The station took calls from the public all night, and even callers who had survived previous bushfires fires said that these fire fronts were moving at an astonishing pace. One man described seeing the glow on the horizon all evening, and then then some time after midnight, the power went out and 30 seconds later his back yard was on fire.

After previous fatal bushfires, the authorities encouraged the Australian public to make their own bushfire survival plans. Usually this means making the choice between evacuating early or committing to stay behind and fight the fire as it reaches your property. Last night's fires moved so fast that the people in their path had no time to implement their plans.

The ABC has listed organisations you can contact if you'd like to offer help.
posted by embrangled at 1:55 AM on February 8, 2009


There is a general acceptance that this is climate change driven.

I'm a scientist who's current research is based around climate change and bushfires, and while we're always loath to blame single extreme weather events on climate change, the modeling all shows that fires in southern Australia are just going to get worse and worse.

That respected bastion of critical Australian journalism (bleh) and famed climate change denier, Andrew Bolt, wrote an editorial not a few days ago. I won't link to the filth, but anyway, his argument was basically that climate change would be a good thing, it would actually save lives, and that the "Environazis" trying to fight climate change are putting human lives at risk.

Andrew Bolt, you are a cunt.

Meanwhile, I sit here in Tasmania thinking of what's happening on the mainland, looking up at the bushland on the hill...and waiting for our turn.
posted by Jimbob at 1:55 AM on February 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


Andrew Bolt would start a fire just to create an opportunity to moralize about arsonists and call for capital punishment. He is, indeed, a cunt.

We watched the news last night, and at that point there was one bad injury (50% burns). We watched a dvd then checked the news again. Suddenly 40 people were dead. Now it's hitting 80.

Now I think I understand why farmers grubbed out trees. Forests are fucking terrifying.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 2:10 AM on February 8, 2009


This hits home as I live west of Sydney where there have been similarly devastating fires. We are lucky, they caught the guy who was lighting fires up here a few years ago. But Richard Daly is pretty right that we are getting worse fires due to climate change.
Australia is either first or second in CO2 per population globally, yet the mining and forestry lobby, plus the general public, are believers that we can maintain, or only slightly reduce our outputs or otherwise 'the economy' will suffer. Tell that to the families of the dead.
I live 100meters from where the school and convent burnt in the 1950s. My house is from the 1880s, so I figure it has seen a few fires, but I have friends in the surrounding mile or so out to the virgin, world heritage bush.
The absolute free market says we should move somewhere safer, or at least absorb the risk, but when polluters everywhere (including my family) have no external cost for CO2 emissions I am picking up the cost for their profits.
I need to limit my own family's carbon emissions further, but I can't do it without global cooperation, and I have no right to preclude the developing world from my own metafilter enjoying lifestyle. Its a big problem, and its getting worse.
posted by bystander at 2:21 AM on February 8, 2009


I was in Victoria earlier this year and remember being impressed by the rural fire fighting service's advertising campaign that was describing the need to learn to 'live with fire' which, in Australia, is something we must commonly live with. Having studied fire prevention techniques a few years ago (albiet, in a NSW context) this struck me as just the right tone to take. A warm, dry climate with mostly sclerophyll forests means that fire is a part of the environment, and instead of avoiding it we should instead protect lives and infrastructure when it happens (and arson or no arson, it will happen). Wfthout occasional burns, the damage of any future fire worsens with greater forest crown growth and leaf litter. From what I saw I had the impression that Victoria had it's fire control methods very well planned.

However I'm not sure what new planning is required what with the worsening of fire instances with climate change and the fuckwittery of arson.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 2:23 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's been a stressful weekend.

My wife, 2 dogs and baby live in the middle of a quarter of a million acres of tinder-dry eucalypt forest in an old gold-mining town called Blackwood. On Saturday, the Redesdale fire was being pushed south by strong winds and had got to the point of threatening the town of Woodend. If it had gone past Woodend and into the northern tip of the Wombat forest, we would have been absolutely fucked. The wind change came through just in time for us, pushing the fire away to the east. Towards Kinglake. Our fortune was other people's doom.

Meanwhile, far to the East in Buxton - which abuts Marysville - the parents of some good friends of mine were preparing for what was quite literally the fight of their lives. I spoke to them at 7pm last night. Carolyn described the fires she could see from her house. She seemed both well prepared and calm. Her daughters, D1 and D2, live in California and Paris respectively. I emailed them and told them what was going on. They both tried to call their parents, but by that stage the phone lines were down.

The Parisian daughter, D2, managed to get a cell phone call through in the early hours of the morning. She reported:
>They are trapped at Buxton but alive.
>They spent all night fighting the fire and they're exhausted.
>At one point they were completely surrounded by the fire,
>and the flames were meeting from either side above them.
>There are still spot fires, which they're fighting with buckets
>since the pipes have all melted or burst, but now they can
>take turns to sleep.
>Charlie and Betty and their daughter Tracy are with them.

Here's the global village for you: at one point a friend of D2's, to whom this email had been sent, was listening to ABC radio by streaming media in Holland. The announcer relayed an urgent request: did anyone know if Charlie and Betty from Buxton were safe. Friend in Holland emailed D2 in Paris. D2 telephoned ABC radio in Melbourne. Announcer in Melbourne puts her through on air and she relays the fact that Charlie, Betty and tracey are alive and sheltering next door. I've got an mp4 file of the call - if I could work out how to put it up I would.

Meanwhile the fires have all linked up into a front that's nearly 100km long. And the southerly winds that are keeping me, my wife and baby safe are now pushing the fire front north. If it breaks the containment lines between Yea and Alexandra, my parents are in the direct line. Their farm has been wreathed in smoke and ash for the last day and they have been sleeping in 2 hour shifts through the night.

75 dead so far and when people stop fighting fires and start actively looking for bodies I imagine it will get a lot worse. The weather yesterday was absolutely apocalyptic. 46 degrees celcius - 115F - and gusts of wind sufficient to knock you off your feet. I hope I never experience another day like it in my lifetime.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:26 AM on February 8, 2009 [90 favorites]


That respected bastion of critical Australian journalism (bleh) and famed climate change denier, Andrew Bolt, wrote an editorial not a few days ago.

I read that article. Summed up, his argument is this: globally, more people die from cold-related conditions than from heat-related conditions. Therefore global warming is good, amirite?

Andrew Bolt, you give new meaning to the phrase "epic fucking monsterfail of collossally idiotic proportions".
posted by andraste at 2:37 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Wolof at 2:38 AM on February 8, 2009


Wfthout occasional burns, the damage of any future fire worsens with greater forest crown growth and leaf litter.

Unfortunately, convincing a lot of people that prescribed fuel-reduction burning is a bloody good idea is an uphill battle. At the moment, in southern Australia, it's still something that's carried out pretty tentatively and experimentally, mainly in limited trouble spots rather than as a broad scale program.
posted by Jimbob at 2:54 AM on February 8, 2009



I'm a scientist who's current research is based around climate change and bushfires, and while we're always loath to blame single extreme weather events on climate change, the modeling all shows that fires in southern Australia are just going to get worse and worse.



But...it's so cold!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:59 AM on February 8, 2009


But...it's so cold!

Heh. Exactly. Every other week I read some idiot saying "Brisbane just had it's coldest October in 15 years... where's your global warming now, fools?".

That's why I try to avoid blaming every hot day on climate change...it just plays into the idiots' hands. Detecting a climate change signal in the midst of daily, seasonal, annual and multi-annual weather cycles, at a global scale, requires some pretty gnarly statistics. That doesn't mean it's a weak signal, just that sometimes hot days happen, and sometimes dry winters happen.

In southern Australia, we see a distinct drying trend, coupled with a warming trend, with an increased frequency of extremely hot weather, and possibly increased convection storms (ie. lightning), although global climate models are notoriously poor at taking into account convection storms. The end result; more frequent fires, and less controllable fires. From an ecological perspective, I believe we are at the tipping point, where vegetation in a lot of areas will be incapable of returning to it's original state post-bushfire due to the declining rainfall.
posted by Jimbob at 3:14 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


WORSE than Ash Wednesday? Possibly on par with Black Friday?
Holy. Fucking. Shit. My thoughts are with everyone affected down there in my home state.

P.S. If the person going around relighting the fires ever reads this, I'd just like to say to you, that person: there is a very, very, special place reserved for you in Hell.
posted by nudar at 3:17 AM on February 8, 2009


The worst part is that the bastards who started these fires (most of them were started by arsonists, I read) are probably laughing their arses off at the destruction they've caused.

What compels these idiots to even start down the road towards starting a bushfire I'll never know. My thoughts are with all those who've suffered at their hands.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:22 AM on February 8, 2009





The worst part is that the bastards who started these fires (most of them were started by arsonists, I read) are probably laughing their arses off at the destruction they've caused.


My sense from watching the news about various US fires started by arsonists is that these guys tend to get caught. Hopefully, they won't be laughing for long.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:24 AM on February 8, 2009


Just... so awful...
posted by gomichild at 3:28 AM on February 8, 2009


The TV says 700+ homes lost. They say in Kings lake 500 homes destroyed, 3 remain.
A badly burnt man carrying his burnt daughter who had lost his wife and other daughter...
posted by bystander at 3:32 AM on February 8, 2009


I live in a semi-rural area in Queensland and we have been lucky to have had a lot of rain in the past few weeks, but the rain has a down-side - if the weather stays dry (as it is now), the massive amounts of fuel that grow in these conditions will dry out and it will only be a matter of time before it's our turn. Our petrol-powered fire pump is full of fuel and ready to go and we have plenty of water, but I don't know how it would stack up against fires like those burning down south at the moment. The speed and ferocity of these fires is just staggering.

I'm generally on the side of environmentalists, but the end result of some of their activities is that preventive burn-offs are now almost impossible to conduct so, when fires start, they are impossible to control because there is so much fuel available. "Learning to live with fire" is a good concept, but being able to take reasonable steps to control it is part of the equation that gets forgotten all too often.
posted by dg at 3:54 AM on February 8, 2009


meanwhile, in Sydney, there's that lovely bushfire scent on the breeze - somewhere up north, i think.

*memories of the 1994 bushfires that destroyed a hundred or so houses; killed a few people; gave me a cinder in the eye that made people cross the road in fear of my eyepatch*

The Como/Jannali fire began on Friday 7th January 1994 in the Menai area of Sydney. It travelled though Bangor and Illawong, up to Alfords Point, where it jumped the river and moved on to Como. It was eventually contained on Saturday. This fire destroyed approximately one third of the 200 houses burnt in NSW in this spate of fires.


with horrifically strong winds fuelling the flames & destroying the houses on the other side of the gully, and with all the photo albums shunted into the back of the horrible old Commodore station wagon, when the fire reached 10 metres from the house, I blew the fantastic Ubu bushfire whistle to alert the random friends-of-friends-of-my-sister's-boyfriend who had shown up to fight the fires that it was time to piss off to Cronulla Beach & have a bodysurf whilst a black cloud the likes had never been seen since Dresden darkened the sky a few kilometres to the west.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:56 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


.
posted by The Monkey at 3:57 AM on February 8, 2009


these guys tend to get caught

I don't think that's the case in Aus.
posted by pompomtom at 4:02 AM on February 8, 2009


shit. Death toll rises to 84.

The number of dead may rise even further as blazes continue to ravage the state with more than 200,000 hectares affected as 3000 firefighters struggle to contain seven major firefronts. At least 640 homes have been destroyed.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:02 AM on February 8, 2009


these guys tend to get caught
I don't think that's the case in Aus.

They almost never get caught and it's usually almost impossible to even prove that the fire was deliberately lit. Fire-fighting activity is not usually crime-scene friendly.
posted by dg at 4:05 AM on February 8, 2009


tim_in_oz wrote earlier:
>Announcer in Melbourne puts her through on air and she relays the fact that
>Charlie, Betty and tracey are alive and sheltering next door. I've got an mp4
>file of the call - if I could work out how to put it up I would.

Thanks to the kind offers of gomichild and pompomtom:
mp3 file of the phone call
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:17 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ex-Victorian, living in Queensland, here. My folks lived through Ash Wednesday. And I would just like to add my sincere wishes that the cuntballs who lit these fires have something very slow and very painful happen to their families, that they can't prevent.

And then they have their faces eaten off by feral cats.
posted by cerulgalactus at 4:19 AM on February 8, 2009


After the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the aircranes were flying low over my house for days, heading back and forth between the nearby lake and the firefront. I had the good fortune to be on the north side of town, the damage was all done to the south. I think everyone here knew at least a couple of people who lost a house.

Kinglake is a town of 1500 odd people. They lost 20+ people and 500 odd houses yesterday. That's just devastating.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:19 AM on February 8, 2009


The phone call tim_in_oz mentioned above can be found here
posted by pompomtom at 4:20 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And at the same time, 60% of Queensland is under flood (approximately 1.1 million square kilometres). Several people have died, or are missing, including a five-year old who is feared taken by a crocodile. They've had over one metre of rain in a week. That's more than three feet for those of you unfamiliar with the metric system.

The south of the country is burning, and the north drowning. Talk about extremes

By the way, Andrew Bolt is an idiot, as are the climate skeptics that infest the Liberal Party.
posted by Mephisto at 4:28 AM on February 8, 2009


photos
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:30 AM on February 8, 2009


Donations and support:

The Red Cross and NAB are running the Victorian bushfires 2009 - Appeal and asking people to donate blood where possible.

All NAB branches will collect donations from tomorrow.

You can make a donation by direct debit with these details: Victoria Bushfire Relief Fund; BSB: 082-001; Account: 860 046 797.

You can call to make a donation on 1800 811 700

You can make a donation online here: https://www.redcross.org.au/Donations/onlineDonations.asp

Checking on friends and family in the area

You can call 1800 727 077 if you are unable to contact someone in the affected areas.

My heart goes out to all those facing another sleepless night. Arsonists are the scum of the earth.
posted by Mil at 4:35 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


good on you, Mil.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:38 AM on February 8, 2009


I live not far from the mouth of the Maribyrnong river - and thus sea-level - and had thought that that made me susceptible to getting fucked up by climate-change. Seems I was wrong, and the people in the hills get fucked first. I've got a sister in a McMansion in Narre Warren, and apparently that's getting hit too. I wonder if that'll give her thought.
posted by pompomtom at 4:38 AM on February 8, 2009


Saturday was a bit weird. I live in Berwick, which is on the outskirts of Melbourne. It's not a bushfire danger area at all - when I was looking to move there one of the things I did was to drive around looking for the tell-tale scarring on tall trees that would indicate a bushfire sometime in the past, but there was nothing.

Anyway, it was hot as buggery with a blistering north wind that was pulling the bark off the trees, so I was buttoned up inside with the blinds pulled down and the a/c on, and basically read a book. About 2pm I noticed it was getting very dark outside, but figured it was a sign that the cool change was imminent, so I kept reading. A couple of hours later, the smell of burning eucalyptus filled the room. I went outside and the street was full of smoke, and specks of ash were falling from the sky. Other residents were standing nervously in their front yards.

No sirens, no-one from the CFA or SES in sight. I went inside and switched on the radio, to satisfy myself that the smoke was not local in origin. My bushfire response plan is basically to stuff the cat in her carrier and drive to my parent's, after making sure elderly couple next door are okay. I didn't think I'd need it. If cinders had been falling instead of ash, I'd have left.

The wind was swinging around - that's why we were just now getting the smoke, blown all the way from Gippsland. I chatted with the old guy next door in the front yard while the wind kept swinging and the air started to clear, and raked up some of the fallen twigs and bark the trees had dropped.

I've always wondered how these fires get started. People always seem to veer between 'lightning' and 'arson'. Forty thousand years ago indigenous Australians were setting the bush alight for their own purposes, but they were simply helping along a process that was well established by natural selection before they ever arrived. Lightning seems a bit haphazard - we seem to have an awful lot more bushfires than we do lightning storms. Someone I met a few years ago theorized that eucalyptus trees have some method of spontaneously combusting in certain circumstances, but couldn't offer any evidence to back it up. Interesting theory though.
posted by Ritchie at 4:38 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


.
posted by harriet vane at 4:53 AM on February 8, 2009


hey Jimbob - I sent the "Andrew Bolt, you are a cunt" post to the man himself; hope you don't mind ;)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:53 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Further proof that Andrew Bolt is a five-star, fur-lined, ocean-going fuckwit.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:54 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


What drives people to light these fires? Is it stupid teenagers that really don't know any better or is there some kind of specific psychological disorder that encourages this type of behaviour? There are some kinds of extreme anti-social behaviour where I can see how people end up acting in ways that they do, but this is utterly unfathomable to me.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 5:02 AM on February 8, 2009


Specific psychological disorder, as far as I know. There was an interview on 60 Minutes with an arsonist who got caught and was jailed for it. From memory he'd joined the volunteer fire brigade after losing his job and his girlfriend, and it gave him a sense of purpose - so much so that he started lighting fires in order to get called out to fight them. I've got no idea if this is typical, though.
posted by harriet vane at 5:04 AM on February 8, 2009


Preaching over the dead

At least 36 Victorians die in bushfires, and Bob Brown Andrew Bolt sees on opportunity to preach politics.


Fixed that for the cunt.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:06 AM on February 8, 2009


Transcript and video of the 60 Minutes interview with an arsonist.
posted by harriet vane at 5:08 AM on February 8, 2009


The human loss is tragic enough. But then consider the thousands of animals - many of them essentially trapped in paddocks, barns, pens and even houses and the like, utterly incapable of saving themselves - and that sense of tragedy turns into pure anger.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:13 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


The following is absolutely hearsay, the info of which I have arrived at about third- or fourth-hand, and none of which I can vouch for given, amongst the many other reasons you shouldn't rely on information obtained in this way, I have never met the person who initially claimed something along the lines of what follows, but ...

According to a good friend of my brother, yesterday his brother caught a man in the bush who was masturbating whilst he watched videos of himself lighting fires (presumably videos from that day, but I can't vouch for that).

If this allegation is true then I think we can safely conclude that that particular arsonist has real psychological problems.
posted by puffmoike at 5:36 AM on February 8, 2009


Oh fuck. Marysville? Home of Bruno Torf's sculpture garden?
posted by Ritchie at 5:43 AM on February 8, 2009


Oh my god.

You hear about this stuff in the news but it never seems to hit home ... well, I've been studying in Melbourne for the past four years, I can name most of those suburbs, and I know people who've been directly affected. I could be there right now if my parents didn't want me home for the summer. And I know: this pales in comparison to those of you who are actually there, but ... just ... omg.
posted by Xany at 5:44 AM on February 8, 2009


Duck by the oboe, that's unfair. You have no evidence that Andrew Bolt is ocean-going.
posted by No-sword at 5:46 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Australia is on the front line of climate change, along with the American West, the poles and some other places. It's interesting to watch the politics locally, if these obvious extreme climate signals don't spur change, how bad does it have to get before real change happens? I worry people won't change until things are so bad it will be too little too late.
posted by stbalbach at 5:48 AM on February 8, 2009


These photos are horrifying, esp. the shots of burned out cars. I thought the wildfires here in SoCal were unbelievable; the situation in Victoria simply defies imagination.
posted by maryh at 5:49 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Live Google map of fire locations
posted by maryh at 5:55 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


...caught a man in the bush who was masturbating whilst he watched videos of himself lighting fires...

I think it's more likely they misheard. What happened was he caught a man in the bush who was masturbating while he watched videos of "arsin'".
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:27 AM on February 8, 2009


Poor bastards.

.
posted by peacay at 6:40 AM on February 8, 2009


"In Australia alone is to be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scribblings of nature learning how to write. Some see no beauty in our trees without shade, our flowers without perfume, our birds who cannot fly, and our beasts who have not yet learned to walk on all fours. But the dweller in the wilderness acknowledges the subtle charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He becomes familiar with the beauty of loneliness. Whispered to by the myriad tongues of the wilderness he learns the language of the barren and the uncouth, and can read the hieroglyphs of the haggard gum-trees, blown into odd shapes, distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped with cold nights, when the Southern Cross freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue. The phantasmagoria of that wild dreamland termed the Bush interprets itself, and the Poet of our desolation begins to comprehend why Esau loved his heritage of desert sand better than the bountiful richness of Egypt." - Marcus Clarke
posted by Curry at 8:43 AM on February 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Dry days down under: Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in
posted by homunculus at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2009


The photos of the devastation in Victoria look so much like those of the aftermath of last spring's California wildfires that I have to keep reminding myself that all of this is taking place in the Southern Hemisphere. The landscape is so similar, right down to the eucalyptus trees (that conveniently go up like candles). I remember seeing news footage from one of the SoCal wildfires last year (or was it the year before?); it was shot from a helicopter, and you could see the fire burning on one ridge. A few minutes later, it had jumped two ridges - several miles - and the people who had thought they were safe were very suddenly not.

All my sympathies and best wishes to those of you suffering through this. And when embers start falling and the wind shifts toward where you are, especially if you live in a place with only one road in or out, please, please run. Get in the car and go.
posted by rtha at 9:52 AM on February 8, 2009


Be safe friends, I'm pulling for you.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:57 AM on February 8, 2009


.
posted by bitterpants at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2009


A badly burnt man carrying his burnt daughter who had lost his wife and other daughter...

Why are these families prevented from evacuating in time? I genuinely don't understand how much advance warning they have, if roads are blocked/gas is available, or whether staying behind to help is just the neighborly thing to do... Could someone explain?
posted by halogen at 11:20 AM on February 8, 2009


rtha writes:
>And when embers start falling and the wind shifts toward where you are, especially
>if you live in a place with only one road in or out, please, please run. Get in the car and go.

Conventional wisdom will have that waiting until the embers start falling is already too late. Some eucalypts like candlebark can be spotting as far as 30km ahead of the fire front. If you live in a place with only one road out, it may already have been cut behind you. If you're going to run, run even earlier.
posted by tim_in_oz at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2009


halogen, here is one survivor's story; it is scary how fast it can come upon you. We have friends 15 km north of Yea ... fingers crossed all ok there so far.
posted by gudrun at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2009


Just saw a video on CNN about the fires. They were saying winds were blowing embers for kilometers. It's scary that even a fire break wouldn't help you in that case.
posted by wastelands at 11:32 AM on February 8, 2009


Why are these families prevented from evacuating in time?
I guess this article answers my own question.
posted by halogen at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2009


Why are these families prevented from evacuating in time?

Fires this size can be incredibly unpredictable, in part because they can create their own weather (or wind patterns, at least). There's a woman quoted in one of the stories who says that they were given three hours to evacuate...and the fire roared up their canyon 20 minutes later.

tim_in_oz is right: run sooner rather than later. The Oakland Hills (California) fire in 1991 gives a pretty good description of what happens when wind, fire, and narrow, steep streets all get together in a residential area: At the fire's peak it would destroy one home every 11 seconds. By the first hour the fire had destroyed nearly 790 structures.
posted by rtha at 11:40 AM on February 8, 2009


This is absolutely horrifying, moreso by the idea it may have involved arson. Living in the midwest, I'm fine with dealing with regular tornadoes and ice and snow hazards, but this is something I can't even fathom.

I hope everyone is okay out there. I hope we don't lose many more.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:43 AM on February 8, 2009


The death toll is now 108. This is awful. Incredibly, horrifically awful...
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:13 PM on February 8, 2009


From The Age: "more people have died than in any previous natural catastrophe — one so lethal that authorities are treating it like a major terrorist attack."
posted by jonathanstrange at 1:17 PM on February 8, 2009


This is just bit more than I can fathom.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 1:23 PM on February 8, 2009


Current Victoria CFA incident listing.
posted by zamboni at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2009


A badly burnt man carrying his burnt daughter who had lost his wife and other daughter...

Why are these families prevented from evacuating in time? I genuinely don't understand how much advance warning they have, if roads are blocked/gas is available, or whether staying behind to help is just the neighborly thing to do... Could someone explain?


In general, there is enough time for people to get out. These fires have been moving so fast, though, exacerbated by the murderers lighting fires everywhere, that the usual communication strategies and people's person fire safety plans have simply not been able to keep up. 90km/h winds mean that not only does the fire jump huge distances, but the fires often "crown" - travelling at incredible speeds across the tops of trees where they are impossible to fight without aerial support, of which there is never enough to go around.

Of course, the increasing spread of populations to semi-rural areas means that firefighters no longer have the option to let fires take their course, controlling them away from towns. Now, every fire anywhere has a huge potential for disaster.
posted by dg at 2:02 PM on February 8, 2009


I really think they deserve to be charged as murderers.

They will be.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:41 PM on February 8, 2009


I just...haven't been able to fathom that all of this has happened in two days. You watch it on the news and it feels far away, and then the fire maps pop up and it's just a twenty minute drive for me to get to an inferno. Then the stories start trickling in, of people who have lost everything but their own lives and then you start to hurt. My friends have lost friends and relatives in this and I can't suppress the thought that this is going to turn into one of those "everybody knows somebody who perished" times. And you feel it, you feel like everything is on fire. And it pretty much is.
posted by liquorice at 2:47 PM on February 8, 2009


There are, at least, some good stories coming out:

Stories of offhand heroism emerged yesterday. Reluctant teenage hero Rhys Sund declined to be photographed after driving a tiny tractor and trailer across country behind the fire front at Chum Creek, near Healesville, to save his sister Rhiannon and a group of frightened women and children from an isolated farmhouse.

I hope someone will suggest to Vettori and Ponting that it might be nice to, you know, acknowledge the disaster by flicking their match fees to relief efforts, at a minimum.

I hope we've got firefighters heading across the ditch to help out, as we have in previous disasters. I'm stunned by how quickly this has happened, though - the first reports of fire I remembers were around the end of the MCG one dayer, and a couple of days later it's a disaster area.
posted by rodgerd at 2:47 PM on February 8, 2009


Actually, there are: 100 NZ firefighters to tackle bushfires; given the scale of destruction I wonder how much difference it can make, though, given the thousands already active.

Fires are starting up in NSW as well, with assistance.
posted by rodgerd at 2:50 PM on February 8, 2009


For those (Aussies) wanting to help in some little way, here's a useful tool for finding your nearest Red Cross blood donor centre.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:51 PM on February 8, 2009


I remember the fires in Sydney's South. The sun went dark during the day and smoke was all over the town. I have tears in my eyes reading these articles and comments.
posted by nostrada at 2:53 PM on February 8, 2009


I can't fathom how someone could willfully start a fire in conditions like this. As I said in an email to a friend just a minute ago, I don't believe in gods or hells, so I can only hope that anyone responsible for such an act of insanity burns horribly in the fire they set. There's no secular punishment right enough for someone who murders others, old folks, little kids, with fire and stupidity.

I live pretty far from the fires, so it's uncertain how much good me donating a pint of the red stuff would do -- but I'll be doing it anyway, since I imagine there's going to be a need to backfill the supply. For those similarly distant who want to help in other ways, I'd urge donations as Mil kindly posted above

I remember Ash Wednesday, and Black Friday. This is so much worse.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 3:09 PM on February 8, 2009


Oh fuck. Marysville? Home of Bruno Torf's sculpture garden?

One and the same, Ritchie. And one report yesterday specifically mentioned that the sculpture garden was gone. The whole town was razed.

I spent the day in Marysville last summer and much of it was at Bruno's garden because there was so much to see there. It's hard to understand the enormity of these things until you hear a story like this - that Marysville is gone. And Bruno's garden, too. Here's hoping Bruno himself survived.
posted by crossoverman at 3:10 PM on February 8, 2009


This photo gives some idea of just how incredible these fires are. Those are flames in the smoke, not the sun shining through.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 3:17 PM on February 8, 2009


Mefi user Tomble lives in the area. Do any of the Melbourne 'fites have news?
posted by bystander at 3:18 PM on February 8, 2009


I can only hope that anyone responsible for such an act of insanity burns horribly in the fire they set. There's no secular punishment right enough for someone who murders others, old folks, little kids, with fire and stupidity.

True.

*GRISLYNESS ALERT*

One of the newspaper stories was saying that forensic experts are being sent to Victoria from interstate because many of the victims in their cars had been completely cremated, so identifying them isn't going to be easy.

Meanwhile, Mel & Kochie on breakfast TV were going for the exploitation jugular, spending a good twenty minutes with cameras up in the face of some guy whose wife & kids are missing - he was elsewhere when the fires struck & the police were blocking access to the area. Quality stuff there, guys. Something to be proud of.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:48 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heat similar to Dresden

FOR those close to the fires, the conditions could be best described as being similar to the fire-bombing that destroyed German cities such as Dresden in World War II.

A University of Melbourne senior lecturer in fire ecology and management, Kevin Tolhurst, said the radiant heat - the heat given off by the fires - would itself have been enough to kill. "When it gets close, you have enormous radiation loads."

The "survivability" distance of Saturday's heat was about four times their height - a 35-metre high fire would directly imperil those within 140 metres.

posted by UbuRoivas at 3:52 PM on February 8, 2009


The weather on Saturday was hellish. Knowing the fire risk indices were off the charts, we stayed home and kept an eye on the CFA incident page. By early afternoon things didn't seem so bad - the fire near Bunyip seemed to be the only major one and with a cool change due in a couple of hours, I was thinking Victoria might have dodged a bullet. Shit.

We spent the evening at my inlaws, watching the sky grow red over Maiden Gully and hoping that friends were OK. I just can't imagine the horrors in Kinglake & Marysville etc.
posted by gooddoggy at 4:30 PM on February 8, 2009


Near real time updates based on thermal sat imaging mapped here
posted by bystander at 5:09 PM on February 8, 2009


Good luck to everyone there, and especially to our Aussie members and their friends and families. I love Australia, and it's a terrible feeling to see it burn like this, but nothing like as bad as it must be there on the ground.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:25 PM on February 8, 2009


From one fire zone (southern California) to another, good luck.
posted by librarylis at 5:27 PM on February 8, 2009


Is the CFA's advice to stay and defend the correct advice? I think people at Marysville and Kinglake were prepared to do thatm but the speed an fericity of the fire took them by suprise.

It means that no town in sourthen Australia is safe any more. The conditions on Saturday were awesome, a fire could have sparked anywhere- any town could have gone.

What would have happened if a fire got into Yarra Bend, Wattle Park or Jells Park?
posted by mattoxic at 6:31 PM on February 8, 2009


We have one staff member still protecting his home (Yarra Glen) as a fire is just a few KM away, and another very upset because he's lost some close friends in the fires. Another staff member's parents have just been evacuated from Wilson's Prom. That's a third of our staff personally affected. My friend's parents in Kinglake have been spared, and apparently their home is one of the few houses still standing although they are still not able to reach one another due to blocked roads.

My brother lives in Albury and says he can't see the houses across the street due to the smoke from the Beechworth fires. By contrast, we in Melbourne haven't seen or smelt the smoke, unlike other bushfire incidents.
posted by andraste at 6:46 PM on February 8, 2009


Here's an LA Times article on Australian fire tactics.

The "stay or go" policy, adopted state by state beginning in the mid-1990s, has sharply reduced losses of life and property in wildfires, statistics show. In 1983, a year of widespread conflagrations, 60 Australians lost their lives in bushfires, not including firefighters, researcher Katharine Haynes reported. In the equally severe fire season of 2003, bushfires caused just six deaths.

Only a handful of Australians have died in their homes during wildfires in the last 10 years, and none of them were actively defending their properties, according to researchers at the Bushfire Cooperative Research Center in Melbourne.

posted by zamboni at 6:49 PM on February 8, 2009


The CFA did an interesting paper analysing civilian deaths in the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires (PDF link) which makes informative, if grim, reading. They divide the deaths into three categories: those who recognised the threat but chose an ineffective survival strategy, including those who evacuated too late; those who didn't recognise the threat to their safety in time to implement a survival strategy; and those who were physically incapable of implementing a survival strategy, such as the elderly or disabled, or those under the influence of alcohol. In the first two categories, the wind change had a dramatic effect for many; people who were watching the fires burn away from them were dead an hour later when the wind changed.
posted by andraste at 7:26 PM on February 8, 2009


And there I was in Melbourne for work the other week, during the heatwave - I think it was 4-5 consecutive days over 40 celsius, up to about 47 degrees on the Friday. Perfect conditions for turning the bush into one giant tinderbox.

Having grown up in a house adjoining the bush, summers always involved keeping the gutters & garden completely free of dry leaves & twigs etc. So I was quite amazed & frightened, visiting some friends on the edge of the city (Eltham / Montmorency area) & seeing that they had obviously not spent a single second clearing away any of that fuel since buying their house a year or two ago. Hopefully this will frighten them into action.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:39 PM on February 8, 2009


Reports are that the "Stay or Go Policy" will be reviewed in the light of this weekend's disastrous death toll, which has hit 126 and will continue to rise as police are able to get into the worst affected areas.
posted by crossoverman at 7:44 PM on February 8, 2009


How horrible - my thoughts and well wishes to all the poor people caught up in this terrible hellfire - thinking in particular of all you Aussie mefites, wishing you and yours safety and peace.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:49 PM on February 8, 2009


This is so hard to comprehend...the photos of the destruction are unbelievable.
posted by dhruva at 8:24 PM on February 8, 2009


Nice to see that our parliamentarians have awarded themselves a day off work in response to the tragedy.

Amidst a bunch of rhetoric about the Aussie spirit & similar windbagging, it's nice to see them so keen to embody our most hallowed tradition: a sickie long weekend.

And John Howard must be turning in his political grave, missing out on such a great opportunity to be photographed with the army.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:04 PM on February 8, 2009


Nice to see that our parliamentarians have awarded themselves a day off work in response to the tragedy.

If they aren't in parliament it makes it harder to say something stupid and offensive while point-scoring.
posted by rodgerd at 10:08 PM on February 8, 2009


Isn't Kevin Rudd the most wooden, scripted, shifty, shudder-inducing human being?

And he's really gotta give the hand movements a rest, too. He looks like a farking idiot. And you know everything the slimeball does is calculated, so that makes him doubly a farking idiot for thinking it's a vote-winner.

"…reach out to the people of Victoria…" he says. with a goofy, over-the-top reaching out motion. **SHUDDERS**
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:08 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was watching the Insiders yesterday morning and Deputy Prime Minister Gillard was one of the guests. I found it fascinating and depressing how when asked a simple question, she immediately slipped into talking points mode. She didn't need to - the host of the show was merely asking a question on a human level. There was no political angle, there was no implied criticism of government policy - it was a simple question about what can anyone do in the face of natural disaster, but Gillard still sat on her prepared points. There is a time and a place for staying "on message" and this wasn't it. Rudd is twice as bad.
posted by awfurby at 12:32 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Over 135 confirmed dead - may well rise to 150.

I know someone who lost everything they owned in the fire. Thank-God his family got out in time. But a life's hard work down the drain and literally nothing to show for it. How horrible. And I still have phone calls to make.

If you have anything to donate - money, clothes, toys, food, water, anything - please do so.
posted by Neale at 12:38 AM on February 9, 2009


Over 135 confirmed dead - may well rise to 150.

The one that hit hardest for me is still the guy who showed up with his skin hanging off, one of his daughters, and a wife and another daughter he'd seen die. I can't even imagine how you deal with that.
posted by rodgerd at 12:57 AM on February 9, 2009


Australians have donated more than $8.8 million in less than 24 hours to bushfire-ravaged communities in Victoria.

This morning's tally did not include pledges from businesses or organisations. Westpac & Commonwealth Banks, AMP, Woolies & Australia Post have all thrown in a million apiece, with others sure to jump on board.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:30 AM on February 9, 2009


I know someone who lost everything they owned in the fire. Thank-God his family got out in time. But a life's hard work down the drain and literally nothing to show for it. How horrible.

I lived in CA a long time and have been through many fires, including last years lightning fires where many people lost houses and I say that is a GREAT result. You can build a new house and the rest of it is just stuff. Inside of a year the kids will have everything they had before including both parents.

Fuck staying and defending your house. When it's 120 degrees ambient temperature and you live in a forest and you haven't already fire-proofed your property you aren't going to save it. Whereas a well fire-proofed building will do just as well without you standing there watching it. Take the pets and any livestock you can get to and leave while you still can.

We evacuated my family house probably a half-dozen times in the 90s and while it never burned when we were gone I guarantee you we wouldn't have cared in the long run as long as everyone was safe.
posted by fshgrl at 2:02 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Terrible, terrible stuff. Some of the stories that are coming out are truly tragic. Luckily, none of my family or friends were caught up in it, though the were a few close calls. I do get the impression that this will be an ongoing and unpredictable situation for the next few days and I'm sending my best wishes to everyone in Vicco.
posted by Onanist at 3:05 AM on February 9, 2009


Interesting post here about the weather conditions on Saturday, and their consequences. The flashpoint of eucalyptus oil is 49.4 degrees. The ambient temp was 48+.

No wonder the firefront was moving at 120km/h.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:26 AM on February 9, 2009


What a tragedy. I grew up in Kinglake and I believe that every house on my old street (Pine Ridge Road) is gone. To see the burnt out cars, flung into gutters or crashed into piles of 3 or 4 sends a shudder up my spine. I can't begin to fathom what those people must have experienced. Truly horrific.

PS I'm willing to bet the producers at 9, 7 and 10 are already drafting the storylines to their made-for-TV bushfire drama epics. Sickening, moreso than Mel and Kochie (just).
posted by micklaw at 6:06 AM on February 9, 2009


Here is a cool tool for cutting fire lines fast. Faster than a shovel.
Hydro_Mechanical_Obliteration
posted by meddeviceengineer at 7:03 AM on February 9, 2009


"The human loss is tragic enough. But then consider the thousands of animals - many of them essentially trapped in paddocks, barns, pens and even houses and the like, utterly incapable of saving themselves - and that sense of tragedy turns into pure anger.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:13 AM on February 8"


I think about that, too. I've lived in the desert, but the kind of heat that Victoria has had - (Avalon at 47.9 degrees???) is almost incomprehensible. When koalas are doing this and this...
posted by HopperFan at 7:22 AM on February 9, 2009


> Isn't Kevin Rudd the most wooden, scripted, shifty, shudder-inducing human being?

He was looking decidedly emotional in at least one clip I saw on tonight's ABC news. This is from AlJazeera but is the same piece of film.
posted by adamt at 8:03 AM on February 9, 2009


People need to tell stories about what has happened; dismissing TV stations' reporting and plans to make dramatizations as mere profiteering is a bit narrow. But it's natural to want to lash out at someone I guess. Dissing Kevin Rudd won't help either. I'm sure he's doing his best- whether it's good enough is another question. I just wish everyone would wake up and smell the climate change.
posted by Coaticass at 12:44 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dissing Kevin Rudd won't help either.

Hey, it takes time to get over the ten-year habit of automatically dissing whatever the PM says or does.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:50 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meant to add, growing up my family spent many a holiday in Blackwood and in Marysville, famous for its forests of mountain ash (a type of eucalyptus), world's tallest hardwood. How many are still standing? The death toll is 173 and rising... I'm going to have to ban myself from watching any more news for a bit.

Micklaw, sorry to hear about your childhood street, that must be awful. I felt the same way about the tv coverage over the past few days. But what's happened isn't their fault. Perhaps we viewers can encourage them to report more about climate change though, when the immediate crisis has passed.
posted by Coaticass at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2009


Scientists warned us this was going to happen

IT IS only a couple of years since scientists first told us we could expect a new order of fires in south-eastern Australia, fires of such ferocity they would engulf the towns in their path.

And here they are. The fires of Saturday were not "once in 1000 years" or even "once in 100 years" events, as our political leaders keep repeating. They were the face of climate change.

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2009


Thanks Coaticass, I never suggested for a minute it was the tv stations' fault - I just hate to think that people see this event as something they can profit from.

I made a pretty simple statement really, no need to read between the lines.

Totally agree on climate change but really, not even this will be enough to convince the Andrew Bolt's of the world - sad.
posted by micklaw at 2:28 PM on February 9, 2009


I'm just getting into the mindset of Andrew Bolt at the moment, thinking about the story he's working on:

"Hmm. It's getting harder and harder to deny this whole 'climate change' business, because this heat is unprecedented, and the fires...wait. Wait, something's coming to me. Fires. Something about fires. Fires are hot. Fires are really hot. And there are these big fires going on all over the place, where it's hot, but...but what evidence is there, really, that the heat came before the fires? I bet there's none! So what it is, is the fires are what's causing the heat. Holy shit! TREES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR GLOBAL WARMING!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:30 PM on February 9, 2009


So I arrived into work this morning to discover that I've become a hated breed: Don't mention the C word. Some of the comments in that Crikey post are appalling. Apparently, scientists are criminal for daring to suggest ways this tragedy could have been avoided. Apparently, it's more humane to simply watch Today Tonight interview some tired fireys and shrug and say "shit happens", than try and think about what went wrong.

So you've got this conflict some people are holding in their heads: "This is a shocking, unexpected human tragedy of the highest order" and "This was bound to happen and there was nothing that could have prevented it."

Also, props to Ubu's link above. Freya Mathews is probably going to get some nasty, ignorant phone calls today.
posted by Jimbob at 2:37 PM on February 9, 2009


Fires produce fucktons of carbon dioxide. Trees breathe in CO2 & breathe out oxygen. Ergo, the fires are good for the trees! And good for us oxygen-breathers! It's all just Gaia taking care of herself.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:42 PM on February 9, 2009


"Hmm. It's getting harder and harder to deny this whole 'climate change' business...

Andrew Bolt has been subtlety shifting his story over the past few years.

First it was that climate change wasn't real.
Then it was that climate change might be real, but humans didn't cause it.
Then it was that climate change was real, but now its over and the climate has gone back to normal.
Now it's that climate change might be real and humans may have caused it, but it's probably a good thing.
posted by Jimbob at 2:42 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jimbob, so many of the climate change deniers I know, especially in the wake of the weekend, would kick you in the nuts for daring to suggest this has something to do with climate change, because they see such a claim as about as credible as somebody like Fred Phelps or (closer to home) Abu Bakar Bashir claiming this was the result of God punishing Australia.

To them, climate change advocates are simply using this tragedy to further their cause. Because to them, climate change isn't real. Therefore the only possible explanation for bringing it up is that you are all shameless pricks. Despite the scientific evidence (which of course is tainted by your leftist agenda). It boggles the mind.
posted by nudar at 3:28 PM on February 9, 2009


What I don't understand is how "accepting the scientific evidence for climate change" is somehow an "agenda". Is believing the Earth is round an "agenda"? What am I gaining by believing in the reality of climate change? How is it a "cause"? Weird.
posted by Jimbob at 4:06 PM on February 9, 2009


Spoke to my father late last night, who told me Healesville had fires on three sides. Fuck. He'd been watching the TV in the reflection of his window, so he could keep track of the glow in the sky. This is a tough, no-bullshit dude, and he sounded- shall we say- pretty fucking humbled by the whole situation. As a safe place he'd picked out a spot on a nearby creek, under a bridge.

So I'm picturing a guy in a little flat in a touristy town who was wondering if he was going to be burned alive or not in the middle of the night.

The flames cannot be outrun in a car, I picture the fire front as basically an explosion. Yesterday, a fire that was the result of several fires joining together was simply called The Huge Fire. The reason our political leaders have been crying on television is they know this shit was completely out of control, and it did it's business as if we were nothing. Dad told me everyone in town knew a brand new dead person. He was aware of some nice old ladies from the op shop who'd been killed, and an old mate's phone had been dead for days. So he's probably dead.

These motherfuckers who think it's tasteless to mention climate change are my brand new scapegoat. Right now, a lot of people want someone to blame for something, anything, and I'm no different. I blame climate change deniers for making the changes we need to make so fucking impossible. These fires are climate change, right in our faces, just like the Great Barrier Reef dying, and the little Pacific islands disappearing under the waves. It's not a hobby, you stupid fucking cunts.

Climate change deniers: please understand you are despicable pieces of shit. You don't have an opinion, you have a retarded attitude. Get. Fucked. Thanks to cunts like you, nothing ever changes for the better without an agonizing wait for the fuckheads to come to the party. You have poisoned the well.

I'm not sure, but on the radio right now, I might have just caught news of the death of Dad's mate. It was certainly his name, which isn't a common one. Enjoy your argument party, deniers.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 4:41 PM on February 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Jimbob: (human-driven) climate change implies an agenda or cause - ie to slow or reverse the changes. These obviously impact upon our economic activities & priorities.

Believing in a round Earth doesn't mean a whole lot in practical terms, other than the fact that you can reach India by sailing west from Europe. Or, at least, you can end up in a tropical paradise sipping Cuba Libres under the palm trees & enjoying tasty tropical fruit & sweet sweet reggae, mon.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2009


Jimbob: (human-driven) climate change implies an agenda or cause - ie to slow or reverse the changes.

Not me. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that we are screwed and there's not a damn thing we're going to be able to do about it.
posted by Jimbob at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2009


Update: Danny Nalliah is an even bigger fuckwit than Andrew Bolt.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 6:10 PM on February 9, 2009


The Boston Globe covers this in their Big Picture Blog.
posted by crossoverman at 6:17 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God. That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.”

And the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of Ubu: "Fuck you, you delusional fruitcake, and fuck the imaginary horse that you rode in on"
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:19 PM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


These motherfuckers who think it's tasteless to mention climate change are my brand new scapegoat. […]

Climate change deniers: please understand you are despicable pieces of shit. You don't have an opinion, you have a retarded attitude. Get. Fucked. Thanks to cunts like you, nothing ever changes for the better without an agonizing wait for the fuckheads to come to the party.


Crikey! Settle down there, tiger.

I may as well bring up immigration now. Immigration deniers will be my new scapegoat.

Since population growth has caused cities to become unaffordable and/or uncomfortably busy for some, forcing them to make "tree changes" to these dangerous areas. And since Australia's natural birth rate has been floating around zero for quite a while…

Yes. Immigration, I think.

re: your other minor point. I am very VERY suspect about any politician crying on television. Premier Brumby cries without tears for chrissakes. How interesting. At least Bob Hawke got some blubbering action happening regarding Tiananmen.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:49 PM on February 9, 2009


"In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God. That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.”

Holy shit. Would it be completely inappropriate of me to speculate that some of the peeps from Catch The Fire might have decided God needed a helping hand in smiting Victoria on Saturday?
posted by Jimbob at 8:20 PM on February 9, 2009


Would it be completely inappropriate of me to speculate that some of the peeps from Catch The Fire might have decided God needed a helping hand in smiting Victoria on Saturday?

Well, it certainly must be something the police would be looking into, anyway.
posted by rodgerd at 8:29 PM on February 9, 2009


The smoke from the fires in the Yarra Valley are clearly visible from my Carlton flat today. At least four distinct points. Horrible, just horrible.
posted by michswiss at 8:30 PM on February 9, 2009


In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably...

That's funny, because in my dream, I had a vision of myself copulating with this guy's skull! What are the odds?
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:46 PM on February 9, 2009


I wonder why God would've burned his own house down in Kinglake - to throw suspicion onto the Devil, perhaps?

It's worth noting that while the church was razed to the ground, some people survived the fires by adopting the awesome tactic of hiding out in the coolroom of the local pub. Or maybe they were just there anyway because it was such a hot day; I don't know.

But the scoreboard tells the story: Church 0, Pub 1
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:57 PM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


...razed to the ground...

Oh, Ubu. You disappoint me so.

Having said that, generally speaking, the pub is best for just about everything. For example, I've picked up more girls in pubs than I could ever hope to at mass.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:05 PM on February 9, 2009


Wow, I was just kidding about a religous kook attributing these fires to their God. Way to get your message across there, Danny. Not only does the country now hate your guts; but you, your 'dreams', and your little cult, the suspiciously named Catch A Fire ministries, are probably under criminal investigation. Well played.

My money's on the Catch A Fire ministries being the next thing to catch on fire - and burn to the ground.
posted by nudar at 9:10 PM on February 9, 2009


I fail to understand your point, turgo: are you suggesting that "rased" is the cromulent spelling down under?

And little surprise that you'd have more success with the ladies at pubs than at mass - the festy stale beer smell would disguise the odours emanating from your infamous sack.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:48 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


are you suggesting that "rased" is the cromulent spelling down under?

"to the ground" is redundant. Raze means "to level to the ground".
posted by crossoverman at 9:59 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


181 †

One peripheral snip that gladdened the heart was a spokesperson at a relief centre in North Queensland (62% of Qld has been declared a flood disaster) saying that quite a few victims had intimated that any govt. assistance they receive will be donated to the Victorian fund. Now that's honourable.

Who hasn't been thinking: all of the country's problems would be solved simply if we just folded the country in half, north to south?
posted by peacay at 4:57 AM on February 10, 2009


I just read on here that these fires where started by someone!!! I thought it was a wild fire caused by nature. No penalty that can be given by man is enough for these assholes. Lost lives, millions in damage, and ruined families... I hope the people truly responsible for this get what's coming to them! Just simply dragged out into the street and shot. No need to allow them the chance to say they are sorry for their sins. Just give them an express ticket straight to hell.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:45 AM on February 10, 2009


Mastercheddaar, that kind of mindset is part of the reason why so much of the world is even more fucked than Australia even with the fires. If these cunts get caught, they'll get their day in court and that's a good thing.

I haven't lived in Australia in a long time but it especially aches to see what has happened to Marysville. I spent so many weekends with mates tearing through those hills on sportsbikes and I think of the locals we came to know in all those little towns and communities.
posted by Jenga at 7:04 AM on February 10, 2009


Onymous gets constructive:

The growing emphasis on "mass murdering" human villains is a distraction from the real issue of how we can better deal with bushfires - however started - in the future. How can we make sure people in affected areas have a real warning? How else can we contain these fires before they run out of control? In the new climate, do firebreaks need to be larger? Does the CFA need better funding for better equipment and training of more volunteers?

That's a lot more constructive than hoping the police will catch some arsehole on whom we can vent all the rage and frustration we're otherwise left shouting at an unfeeling smoky sky.

posted by zamboni at 7:55 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The newest strange group at fault: "greenies" for allegedly opposing prescribed burning. Which comes as news to me. I must be hanging out with the wrong greenies. I can only assume a lot of people are confusing fuel-reduction burns with post-logging "regeneration" burns, because they are completely different things. The first seeks to emulate pre-European forest processes. The second aims to burn every bit of dead and living vegetation down to the mineral soil so they can then plant some Eucalyptus globulus or Eucalyptus nitans free from competition.

The only place I've heard "greenies" really oppose burning in native forests is in North America, where the link between fire and forest health is a bit more contraversial.
posted by Jimbob at 9:33 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


.
posted by LMGM at 11:59 AM on February 10, 2009


Who hasn't been thinking: all of the country's problems would be solved simply if we just folded the country in half, north to south?

That would presumably mean that the saltwater crocodiles & box jellyfish would make short shrift of the Victorians, South Australians & Western Australians, right?

Sounds like a good plan to me.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:36 PM on February 10, 2009


Mmmm, antipodean calzone.

Can you imagine what would happen to all the, I dunno, Innisfailians when they are suddenly transplanted in Melbourne? "What do you mean I gotta pull to the left before turning right!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:23 PM on February 10, 2009


"What do you mean I gotta pull to the left before turning right!"

That is a crazy system, even for us born-and-bred, dyed-in-the-wool, one-eyed Melburnians.
posted by crossoverman at 2:51 PM on February 10, 2009


Should be OK. Queenslanders have a history of veering left before making a turn towards the right.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:52 PM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


You win this round!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:57 PM on February 10, 2009


Silly rabbits! The great white sharks would eat all of the saltwater crocodiles and jellyfish. Obviously it would all come down to which half has the most poisonous snakes (although the north also has cane toads, which are probably a bigger problem).
posted by Ritchie at 4:29 PM on February 10, 2009


I wonder...would a Great White survive if it ate a box jellyfish? That's one for the scientists out there. Meanwhile, I look forward to watching the epic Saltie v Great White battle for supremacy & the right to eat all the humans. Better yet if we could arm them all with lasers on their heads.

It should be all good from where I sit, since I reckon that Byron Bay & Nimbin would be transplanted directly onto Sydney.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:45 PM on February 10, 2009


The newest strange group at fault: "greenies" for allegedly opposing prescribed burning. Which comes as news to me.

Saw an interview last night with a bushfire expert [tenured, not just some self proclaimed bozo]. He says Western Australia [thru the agency CALM] is the only state to do this. He says it works, and you'd have to agree the stats back this up.

So I guess someone is opposing it, non? Unless it's just pure laziness or budgetary.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:09 PM on February 10, 2009


Today, there are fears death toll could be as high as 300.

Absolutely agonising report in the Aus tells the story of volunteer firefighters forced to flee Marysville as the town, and its residents, burned around them.

Quote:"There were children running down the streets with flames behind them. It was hell. I never want to go back to that place, never.''


And Centrelink bureaucrats are asking people who have lost everything for ID before handing out emergency assistance cash.
posted by t0astie at 5:22 PM on February 10, 2009


Hello all, thanks to those who emailed me expressing concern. I live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, so pretty far from danger, but I have a number of friends who have lost family and friends in this disaster.

A friend got out of Marysville just in time. At 5:30 they were told things seemed okay. Around 7 they were told to leave IMMEDIATELY, and five minutes later her house was ablaze. She lost her house and shop, which was just down the road, and escaped with the clothes on her back, a flashlight and the keys to her beautiful shop (and it was lovely).

Another friend's friend lost his parents. Another's sister in law lost four members of her family, including two young children.

Current death toll is 181 confirmed, but we just know that bodies will continue to be found for some time. Some people are estimating 300 plus casualties all up, but only time will tell.

We've had 2.2mm of rain so far THIS YEAR, .8mm on the second of January and the rest last week. That equates to a couple of showers.
Everything was so tinder dry, and the wind so intense that the flames travelled with unprecedented speed. Check out this video from 14-21 seconds. Look how fast that fire is travelling.

I read a discussion where someone said they should make firebreaks around the towns to stop this, but the firebreaks would have had to be around 5km wide, and bare of grass, and even then the winds were so intense that embers could have crossed them.

There are fires every year, and rarely are there deaths. The standard `Evacuate or Stay & Defend' prinicple has worked well, it's just in this case the winds and unusual dryness and heat combined into 'the perfect firestorm'. People who thought they were okay and were taking the standard precautions found themselves in the midst of an inferno minutes later, the windows blown in and the house full of smoke and embers.

Officially it is the worst natural disaster in Australia's history. I was meant to go up to Marysville in a couple of weeks, and I was there late last year. I have heard estimations that up to 100 died there, that's a fifth of the population.

It was a beautiful town, particularly in Autumn, with the smell of the eucalypts and that crisp air you get in the bush. I can't believe it's gone.

:(
posted by tomble at 5:27 PM on February 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


That's terrible news, tomble.

And for peoples' reference, here are some shots of Marysville before the disaster.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:59 PM on February 10, 2009


So I guess someone is opposing it, non? Unless it's just pure laziness or budgetary.

Well, I work for a tenured bushfire expert. Personally, I'm just on a contract. And in my experience, the following groups oppose prescribed burning:

1. I will admit, some greenies. Those undeserving of the name - people who just think trees are pretty, rather than those who actually understand ecology. I've never met one, personally.
2. Farmers who are worried fires will spread to their crops.
3. Farmers who are worried the smoke will wreck the flavour of their grapes/fruit.
4. "Treechangers" and other people who move into forests without understanding how they work, and who are scared of controlled burned being conducted out their back fence.
5. Much of the general public, who are unaware the present dense, overgrown Eucalypt forests look nothing like they did prior to European settlement, due to the active exclusion of fire for over a century.
6. People worried about the effects of smoke on health.

The last one is a legitimate concern, and my own research at the moment is aimed at comparing the health impact of frequent prescribed burns, compared to the huge but infrequent "megafires" we end up with if we don't do prescribed burns.
posted by Jimbob at 6:21 PM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


It should be all good from where I sit, since I reckon that Byron Bay & Nimbin would be transplanted directly onto Sydney.

Actually, I think the fold should run directly through Sydney Harbor, so we can dump the north shore on Redfern. Maybe skewer some people in Kirribilli with the Opera House roof.
posted by Jimbob at 6:30 PM on February 10, 2009


Damned if you do, damned if you don't, eh, Jimbob? You should hear all the carry-on when the wind blows the smoke across the metro area. CALM are even polite enough to plan around wind conditions, so it's only unexpected wind changes that cause any problems.

Yes, it stinks. But Jesus Christ, people, it happens once a year, if that. I call it a "shit happens tax," like a speeding ticket you don't deserve. It's all part of living in a metropolis, and occasionally we have to drink from the cup of shut-the-fuck-up.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:35 PM on February 10, 2009


You should hear all the carry-on when the wind blows the smoke across the metro area.

Heh. If prescribed burning was to be carried out in all of Victoria's eucalypt forests, Melbourne would probably be shrouded in smoke for the whole of Autumn. Prescribed burning is a great way of reducing the severity of bushfires, but it's very hard to do it and keep people happy.

And a further impact of climate change - it reduces the number of days in the year when it is safe to burn, reducing the window of opportunity for controlled burning to be carried out.

As I said above, we're all screwed.
posted by Jimbob at 6:43 PM on February 10, 2009


Jimbob, with the bushfire 'experts' coming out of the ah.. woodwork for media talkfests, I have heard that the forest around Kinglake (actually I don't know the area at all but the intimation was the wooded hill areas of central Vic.) are singular for the endemic species which supplies the greatest fuel loads anywhere in the world in the right conditions. Is that right do you know?

Methinks, given the prevailing conditions last week, that even with the most efficient off-season controlled burns and increase in fire-breaks, there will have been arguable impact on the overall result. Cyclonic winds + fire + tinderbox = disaster anyways. I'm guessing that we are headed for wider 'forest exclusion zones' or some similarly named euphemism from around built-up areas in addition to more thorough backburns and fire-breaks.
posted by peacay at 7:32 PM on February 10, 2009


I think the fold should run directly through Sydney Harbor, so we can dump the north shore on Redfern.

That part sounds alright, but I'm not so keen on the idea of dumping Palm Beach on Cronulla - imagine if the rioters had access to endless buckets of money!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:48 PM on February 10, 2009


I think they're probably Eucalyptus regnans forests up around that part of Victoria, which are extremely big trees that produce big fuel loads. You're looking at a tonne of fuel or more, per hectare, falling on the ground each year.

In these fires, the fire was carried mainly by the canopies rather than the undergrowth (what is traditionally considered fire fuel), which is what led to the massive flame heights and rate of spread. With ambient air temperature so close to the flash point of eucalyptus oil, the canopies are essentially filled with flammable gas, ready to explode.

So fuel reduction burning (which aims to reduce ground material) would not have stopped the spread of these fires through the canopy; but it should have reduced the chance of the fires igniting and moving to the canopy to begin with.

These were exceptional circumstances, completely outside of human control beyond cutting the forests down completely, but they were probably circumstances we'll see more frequently in the future.

I'm guessing that we are headed for wider 'forest exclusion zones' or some similarly named euphemism from around built-up areas in addition to more thorough backburns and fire-breaks.

I'm wondering if that will start to be carried out by default by insurance companies. How long before, when you sign up for house insurance, they start asking you how far you live from a forest?
posted by Jimbob at 8:12 PM on February 10, 2009


-insurance-

I could envision much worse than simple forest exclusion requirements: fire retardation rating for structures, sliding scale premiums, actuarial input on premium for location risk, upkeep/maintenance/prevention clauses, devoted water tank requirements &c.
posted by peacay at 8:54 PM on February 10, 2009


In these fires, the fire was carried mainly by the canopies rather than the undergrowth [...]

So fuel reduction burning (which aims to reduce ground material) would not have stopped the spread of these fires through the canopy; but it should have reduced the chance of the fires igniting and moving to the canopy to begin with.


Not according to the boffin I heard last night. He specifically mentioned ground fuel. I was going to include that in my previous post but thought it was getting too crowded with info.

Looks like it might be boffins at 10 paces?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:08 PM on February 10, 2009


Has anyone mentioned home cellars for protection? How easy would that be? Ya just need a good lid.

Oh, and maybe a bottle of oxygen and some masks. Would a fire suck out enough oxygen to warrant that?

Anecdotally I don't think so. I've already heard stories of people surviving this fire by hiding in small cavities. But just to be safe...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:13 PM on February 10, 2009


Forget my second to last post, Jimbob. Enough of "wot I saw on the teev."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:14 PM on February 10, 2009


These were exceptional circumstances, completely outside of human control beyond cutting the forests down completely, but they were probably circumstances we'll see more frequently in the future.

There was a case of a lurker near a Primary School near where I live. So the authorities cut down CRAPLOADS of vegetation. Beautiful, big, healthy, shade providing, soul nourishing vegetation. Don't quote me, but I *think* Murdoch University has done the same on parts of its campus for the same reason.

I hope you're wrong, but I fear you may be right, Jimbob.

Remember Douglas Adams' Restaurant series, and they declared the leaf the official currency but then everyone was too rich so they burnt down all the forests...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:21 PM on February 10, 2009


For those concerned about Bruno Torf's sculpture garden, a message is up on the site now from Bruno's son-in-law. Bruno and his family are safe and well, but their house and the gallery have been destroyed. The sculpture garden is badly damaged but they believe that many of the sculptures will be salvageable. They intend to rebuild, including the sculpture garden.
posted by andraste at 10:10 PM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I could envision much worse than simple forest exclusion requirements: fire retardation rating for structures, sliding scale premiums, actuarial input on premium for location risk, upkeep/maintenance/prevention clauses, devoted water tank requirements &c.

Welcome to California. In a lot of areas all new buildings must have entirely non-flammable external materials (tile roofs, stucco walls, metal siding etc), must be fire proofed (fine mesh on vents, metal garage doors, no propane tanks stored within x feet of the house etc) and must be maintained (vegetation breaks, gutters cleaned, ground cover cleared). Enforcement varies from county to county but where it is strict? houses don't burn down in fires very much. The problem is that enforcement often does not exist and people get complacent and once one house catches on fire it burns so hot and for so long that it greatly increases the risk of neighbors houses burning down.

A lot of the problem is non native landscaping- eucalyptus and palm fronds. Palm fronds catch on fire and blow around, fetching up against houses which catches them on fire. Eucalyptus just explode, it's scary to watch.

These were exceptional circumstances, completely outside of human control beyond cutting the forests down completely,
It was a crown fire but I'm not sure that's outside of human control as I believe those have been linked to fire suppression practices.
posted by fshgrl at 12:13 AM on February 11, 2009


As I said above, we're all screwed.

When the spinifex hit Sydney it was the last thing we expected,
When the desert reached the Gladesville we tried to tame it.
When the emus grazed at Pyrmont it suddenly dawned on us all
High and mighty the world was silent the door was shut!
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:19 AM on February 11, 2009


Has anyone mentioned home cellars for protection? How easy would that be? Ya just need a good lid.

Well, since Cyclone Tracy, every new house in Darwin has been required to have a cyclone-proof shelter - typically, a structurally redundant central column beneath the stilt-house, made of concrete or cinderblocks or whatever.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:24 AM on February 11, 2009


Nice Oils quote.
I heard a CFA guy on the radio say they lost a house that was designed with the best fire retardant practices. I'm on the side that says the game has changed, and we will see more frequent, hotter fires.
I was talking to a friend about the 1950s fire where I live in the Blue Mountains. It was pretty devastating, but it was fought with wet sacks and knapsack sprayers. With Elvis, hundreds of trucks and much greater knowledge we seem to be losing the arms race against the environment.
Lucky Krudd is going to cut CO2 by that whopping 5%. Like the Port Arthur tragedy, this is a time we can swallow our medicine as a country. Time to lead on climate.
posted by bystander at 3:02 AM on February 11, 2009


Nice Oils quote

It's older than Kosciusko.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:53 AM on February 11, 2009


As a complete ignoramus on these things, it seems to me that the particular circumstances of these fires would most likely have overrun whatever protective measures were in place. Assuming the figure above relating to the flash point of Eucalyptus oil is correct, it is quite conceivable that ambient temperatures in many places were high enough to start fires without any other interference. I was speaking to someone who was at Euchuca last weekend, where temperatures of 50c were recorded. Likewise, the figure of 140 metres being the minimum survivable distance from the fires means that no tactic (apart from, maybe, a bomb-shelter standard concrete bunker) would have ensured survival. The only saving grace would be the pure speed the fires were moving at, meaning you would not be in the fire zone for long.

Sometimes, shit does just happen and maybe there was no way to either avoid or survive these particular fires. It's possible that there is simply nothing we can do to prevent fires of this magnitude happening from time to time and that, when they happen, we are powerless to protect everyone. It's a pretty dismal view of the future, but I'm inclined to side with Jimbob hat there is sweet fuck all we can do. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try and learn some lessons from this and do what we can about fires that are survivable and to prevent fires that are preventable.

If nothing else, its an abject lesson in just how poorly equipped we are to beat nature at her own game - when push comes to shove, nature holds all the cards and all we can do is watch in fear.

UbuRoivas, I think the requirements for houses in Darwin have been relaxed somewhat - I was up there a few months ago and there are certainly plenty of the style of house you mention, but plenty of newer places that are much more conventional in structure. As far as fire resistant (not fire retardant, which is a different thing) structures go, look at the photos of metal buildings destroyed completely - a fire hot enough will burn anything, although reducing fuel loads around and on homes would assist with the more "usual" bushfires. I saw a photo in our local paper, which showed a car where the alloy wheels had melted and run into pools at the corners of the car. The heat of a fire that can do that is almost beyond imagination.
posted by dg at 4:46 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


It was inevitable that Miranda Devine would weigh in eventually: Green ideas must take blame for deaths [...] it is not arsonists who should be hanging from lamp-posts but greenies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:30 PM on February 11, 2009


Nice Oils quote.

It's my quote. MINE! Mine I say!!!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:34 PM on February 11, 2009


I think the requirements for houses in Darwin have been relaxed somewhat

A couple of things to note in regards to houses in Darwin:

1. The building requirements only require houses to handle a category 4 cyclone. Cyclone Monica, which almost hit Darwin a few years back, was a category 5.
2. In the race to rebuild Darwin, there were a lot of dodgy builders who were breaking the rules, and not enough people to catch them. A collage of mine sold his house in Darwin to move down south, and had a building inspection before he did, to discover that all the screws holding the roof and cladding on were not the ones supposed to be use for cyclone protection. He had to have all of them replaced before he could sell the house.
3. Due to crazy land prices in Darwin, high-rise living is really taking off. I really wonder how smart it is to be in a 30-story high-rise during a cyclone.
posted by Jimbob at 4:27 PM on February 11, 2009


It was inevitable that Miranda Devine would weigh in eventually: Green ideas must take blame for deaths.

I know I'm harping on about this, but from all the articles I've seen over the last few days saying "greenies prevented hazard reduction burning", I haven't seen a single fucking example of who any of these greenies are, and why they apparently have so much power when the state governments they allegedly have around their little fingers are so free to do so many anti-green things in terms of logging, ignoring climate change etc.
posted by Jimbob at 4:36 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


pfft, facts. you can prove anything with facts.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:35 PM on February 11, 2009


Likewise, the figure of 140 metres being the minimum survivable distance from the fires means that no tactic (apart from, maybe, a bomb-shelter standard concrete bunker) would have ensured survival. The only saving grace would be the pure speed the fires were moving at, meaning you would not be in the fire zone for long.

Certainly the firestorm effects, such as the oxygen is being consumed so quickly that you may simply die of asphyxiation, seems like the biggest problem. You could end up with a bunch of standing houses full of well-preserved corpses.
posted by rodgerd at 7:26 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unbelievable. The Herald's moderator rejected two separate & soberly rational comments by me along the lines of your point above, Jimbob - ie that Miranda was making outrageous claims backed up by zero actual evidence of greens opposing backburning.

I can only assume that Miranda Devine herself moderates the blog, whilst felching Andrew Bolt.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:30 PM on February 11, 2009


Assuming the figure above relating to the flash point of Eucalyptus oil is correct, it is quite conceivable that ambient temperatures in many places were high enough to start fires without any other interference.

Eucalyptus trees don't spontaneously burst into flame at 110 degrees. It was over 130 here in the Central Valley a few years ago and regularly gets over 120 and I've never seen one explode, lol.

As for metal structures- if you look at the photos you see a lot of burned houses surrounded by unburned trees. Houses are very flammable even with metal roofs because they contain a tremendous fuel load inside and they tend to be ignited by an ember getting inside the house through a vent or a burning piece of tree blowing up against a wooden door.
posted by fshgrl at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2009


Eucalyptus trees don't spontaneously burst into flame at 110 degrees. It was over 130 here in the Central Valley a few years ago and regularly gets over 120 and I've never seen one explode, lol.

A thinly-veiled attempt by science to discredit the miracle of the burning bush.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:11 PM on February 11, 2009


But, but it's SCIENCE!, so it must be true.
posted by dg at 10:44 PM on February 11, 2009


Oh man. Waiting in eager anticipation for Andrew Bolt to call the firefighters union a bunch of shrieking environazis...
posted by Jimbob at 12:30 AM on February 12, 2009


This Guy Rundle article in Crikey tackles the issue of fuel reduction (and the insistence of The Australian to blame the fires on greenies) pretty well. He's correct in stating that those famed latte-sipping urban greens couldn't give a shit about burn-offs, that the correct frequency of controlled burns is still an issue of debate among bushfire scientists and ecologists, and that the speed of these fires was driven by burning in the canopy, not the fuel on the floor.
posted by Jimbob at 12:38 AM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this for real? If so, it makes me feel slightly better about hearing that John Key conveyed his condolences to Rudd via txt.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:54 PM on February 12, 2009


"Will be joining @FiBendall for a 1 minute twitter silence at 4pm on Friday in memory of those who lost their lives in Vic & QLD #bushfires"

Kevin Rudd is observing a minute of twitter silence?!??

Now that's extreme.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:08 PM on February 12, 2009


You know what else greenies are responsible for?

Cleaning up Sydney's waterways enough to make them shark-friendly again. We've now had two shark attacks in two days.

(gotta love the picture caption, too: "Experts on hand...")
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:32 PM on February 12, 2009


[The surfer attacked by the shark at Bondi] was in a fair bit of a mess. He said: 'Tell my wife or girlfriend, Lisa, that I love her.'

His wife probably won't be too pleased to hear about his girlfriend Lisa.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:36 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the blue corner, Miranda Devine. In the red corner, SCIENCE!

She got a well-deserved lambasting in the letters to the editor, as well.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:04 PM on February 12, 2009


Its a very bad year for australia, the fires on the one end and the floods at the other one.
posted by Smaaz at 2:59 PM on February 16, 2009


Its a very bad bloody typical year for australia, the fires on the one end and the floods at the other one.
posted by Jimbob at 3:52 PM on February 16, 2009


You forgot the shark attacks in between.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:59 PM on February 16, 2009


Arson and child pornography. Oh boy! is he in trouble.
posted by tellurian at 8:28 PM on February 16, 2009


I saw some screen grabs of his Facebook page on the TV news. How he wanted to fall in love. Meet a woman. Or something like that. Riddled with typos that a 39 year old shouldn't make. And they weren't 13375p34|< typos, IMHO.

Can't find it now. Too much noise on Google, plus I believe they're starting to remove some of the sites[?].

Have to say I felt a tinge of sadness. I'd imagine he would have had the shiat bullied out of him when he was young, considering his age, and his seemingly low IQ, and his oddness, and teachers' blasé attitude towards bullying back in the day.

Are you allowed to feel sad for kiddie porn owning murderer arsonists?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:40 PM on February 16, 2009


Just make sure you don't put your kiddie porn owning murderer arsonist sympathies anywhere on the public record.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:07 PM on February 16, 2009


A statement from the unfortunately named Catch The Fire Ministries
“In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God.

That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.”
posted by tellurian at 9:51 PM on February 16, 2009


Did Miranda Devine incite violence? I live in a small "anti greenie" bush town, and I think she did.
posted by ginky at 9:56 PM on February 16, 2009


I live in a big "anti bush" greenie town, and I think she did, too.

I felt like committing violence against her.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:49 PM on February 16, 2009


More science related debate on the role of climate change in the fires. Hot temperatures + extreme dry + fierce north winds = same conditions as Ash Wednesday.

'Record low values of relative humidity were set in Melbourne and other sites in Victoria on 7 February, with values as low as 5% in the late afternoon.'

Where I live (in the UK) the humidity doesn't drop below 70%, AFAIKT.
posted by asok at 5:29 AM on February 19, 2009


The best fifteen minutes of every week of TV - Media Watch - on the bushfire reporting. Miranda gets a nice serve at the end.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:08 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older He couldn't sing, dance, or tell jokes, but he was...  |  Braddock, Pennsylvania has bee... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments