This appears to me to be a case of ‘too little, too late,’ though it is good the volunteer fire-fighters are going to get paid for the very good work (generally unpaid and with a loss of income from normal work) they do for the community and country.
Reports from Victoria suggest the expected extreme weather has not proven to be as bad as feared. However, fire authorities are suggesting that the worst may be yet to come, with winds in the west of the state reaching 125 km an hour.
Residents in bushfire threatened areas are being warned not to be complacent as the fire threat is real and not an empty threat. However, many people are beginning to think that authorities are crying ‘wolf’ and exaggerating the threat. It seems some people haven’t yet grasped the reality of what occurred on Black Saturday when 210 people were killed (confirmed – 37 people are still missing).
Given the terrible conditions in Victoria it is incredible that arsonists are still lighting more fires around the state. New fires continue to occur around the state.
A grassfire began late this afternoon to the south of Ballarat and an urgent threat message is current for the communities of Dereel, Corindhap and Rokewood.
In some areas fire-fighters have been withdrawn because conditions are far too dangerous due to falling branches and trees.
A southerly wind change is tipped to hit Victoria tonight, but all this will do is swing winds around to a new direction with similar strength to the current northerlies, thereby opening up new areas of threat to the north of fires.
The southerly change could finally end the major fire on Wilsons Promontory as the fire will probably turn back on itself and burn out.
BELOW: CFA vehicle captures the bushfires near Wandong on Black Saturday
BELOW: Footage of the fire at Buxton on Black Saturday
With bushfires still burning in Victoria, residents are being warned that conditions are set to deteriorate dramatically overnight as gale force winds strike the state. Winds are expected to reach 150 km (95 miles) an hour from tonight.
With conditions expected to be as bad as ‘Black Saturday’ about a month ago, residents in areas still under threat from the bushfires are being told to flee before the winds arrive. The Black Saturday fires claimed at least 210 people (confirmed dead – 37 are still missing) and there are real fears that the expected conditions of the next day or so may add to the already shocking death toll.
Fire-fighters fear that the winds will send the still burning four major bushfires (as well as the lesser sized bushfires) across containment lines and there will be little that they will be able to do about it. Fires may spot across containment lines and change direction rapidly without warning. These conditions are extreme and grave.
The fires are the same ones that have so far taken 210 lives (confirmed), over 2000 houses and 450 000 hectares (1.1 million acres) of farmland and bushland.
In preparation for the worsening conditions the government has closed schools across the state. A total fire ban is also in force across the state. Text messages have been sent to mobile phone owners urging them to be prepared for the frightening conditions.
BELOW: Footage of the firestorm in Clonbinane on the 7th February 2009
The bushfire emergency in Victoria is far from over tonight as the death toll for the fires has now reached 210 confirmed dead. Three fire-fighters have been injured today as a number of new fires have broken out and older fires continue to burn.
Currently under threat are communities to the east of Melbourne, where a home (in Belgrave Heights) is believed to have been destroyed today, with the possibility of others also having been destroyed. Two fire tankers have also been lost to the fire.
Communities in the Dandenong Ranges have come under threat due to a sudden wind change which is now pushing a bushfire in their direction. The blaze is thought to be threatening Upwey, Tecoma, Belgrave Heights, Belgrave South and Belgrave.
Students at Belgrave Heights Christian School were evacuated this afternoon as the fire came within 4 km of the school. Residents in the communities of Warburton and Yarram have also fled their homes as the fire approaches.
Daylesford may also come under threat, with a bushfire burning to the south of the town. The fire may cause a threat to the communities of Bullarto, Bullarto South, Leonards Hill, Musk, Woodburn and Newbury.
The huge Kilmore East fire (80 000 hectares) is moving ever closer to Warburton, while the Murrindindi North fire (155 000 hectares) is burning to the west of Enoch Point.
Another fire (19 000 hectares) is still burning out of control in the Wilsons Promontory National Park and small communities in the area are preparing for worsening fire conditions.
Current Updates and Advice on the fires can be found at the CFA web site:
As Victorians brace themselves for hotter weather this weekend and the possible return to ‘fire weather,’ there are still some 15 major bushfires burning, a further 18 fires burning out of control and about 100 fires considered under control. Each day there are new fires and new threats, though these are not viewed with the same level of concern as the fires last Saturday and Sunday. However, as the weather conditions begin to turn more towards ‘fire weather’ status, each fire will be viewed with increasing concern. Should conditions deteriorate no further, fire-fighters can expect to be fighting these fires for a further 2 to 3 weeks.
Fire-fighters from Canada, New Zealand and the United States have now joined the thousands of Australian fire-fighters in the fight against these bushfires. Though Australia has some of the best-trained and prepared fire-fighters in the world, every bit of help that can be given is appreciated and required.
Authorities are facing growing problems associated with the bushfires and relief efforts, with rubber-neckers (sightseers), looters, arsonists and fraudsters preying on victims and the generosity of most Australians who are doing what they can for the victims. Collection tins have been robbed by a bloke without compassion (captured on security footage as seen below) and one fire-ravaged town has posted signs throughout their community warning that looters will be shot on sight. Another town is issuing citizens special stickers for their cars so locals will know who should be there and who shouldn’t be. It is a tragedy that grows worse by the day, in more ways than one.
1831 homes have now been confirmed destroyed in the bushfire emergency, along with numerous other structures including 2 police stations, three schools, a water treatment plant, a timber mill, a football club, a kindergarten, a church, etc. The damage bill will be enormous.
The death toll currently stands at 181 confirmed dead with many still missing. The death toll will reach 200 plus (possible 300). 7000 people are now homeless. 4 300 further homes remain without power.
ABOVE: Images of Fire Victims
420 000 hectares of bushland, farmland and communities have been reduced to ash by the fires. It is thought that there may be as many as 1 million animal victims of the bushfires.
ABOVE: Animal Victims of the Fires
With arsonists being blamed for a number of fires, one fire near Murrindindi is being blamed on a careless person who threw a cigarette from a car window. A farmer says he saw the fire begin on the side of the road near Murrindindi Mill. This fire merged with the Kilmore fire and destroyed Kinglake and Marysville.
The Red Cross Bushfire Appeal has already raised over 55 million dollars (AU) for the victims of the bushfire disaster. If you are able to assist please do so. People outside Australia please visit the Red Cross Australia website given above. Thank you for your help – Australia thanks you.
The latest on the bushfire emergency is that weather conditions have eased greatly and the predicted hot weather for this weekend may not eventuate until later on in the week, which should allow fire-fighters to get on top of most of the fires – though it will take several weeks to put them all out.
Reports today indicate that several dozen new fires ignited today, with a major fire on the outskirts of Melbourne at Ivanhoe. The fire-fighters are desperately trying to get this fire under control. Some 30 major bushfires are still burning in Victoria.
An arsonist is now believed responsible for the major bushfire that razed Marysville and caused so many deaths. If anyone has information on any suspicious activity in the bushfire regions please contact crimestoppers on 1800 333. Two people arrested today on suspicion of arson were released without charges being laid – they were not responsible for any arson attacks.
The official death toll figure stands at 181, with a further 80 people considered missing. The death toll may yet peak beyond 300, with the possibility of entire families dying in their homes in some communities.
Police have indicated that the rumour indicating that some further 142 bodies had been recovered was false – it is not known where this rumour originated.
ABOVE: Australian Christian Churches Bushfire Appeal
ABOVE: Amazing images from the bushfires
ABOVE: Australian Army Bushfire Search Task Force in action
The death toll in Australia’s bushfire disaster in Victoria has now reached 131 confirmed dead, along with the solemn warning that that death toll could very well reach 200 plus.
Our country is in shock and stunned at the ferocity of the fires, especially on Saturday. Bushfires are an annual thing in Australia and our bushfires are among the worst in the world – yet this has been by far the worst ever.
The bushfire emergency is continues to unfold with fires burning across two states – Victoria and New South Wales. There have been hundreds of fires and dozens continue to burn – many out of control. There are some fires in Victoria that are yet to be attended by any fire-fighters as the current priority remains the saving of lives and property protection. Some 330 000 hectares plus have so far been burnt by the fires.
Fire-fighting crews are rushing to the bushfire region from across Australia and also from New Zealand. Great Britain has also offered assistance and doubtless other countries have also offered help.
As I write there are still homes and towns facing immediate threats from bushfire activity and residents are being warned to leave before it is too late or if remaining home to fight the fires and protect a home (should it be defendable), do not leave when it is too late to do so.
Sadly, many of these fires appear to have been deliberately lit and several arsonists have already been arrested. Many people in Australia are calling for blood. Many Australians are deeply shocked and upset by the bushfire emergency, as has been represented by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Victorian Premier – both of whom have fought back tears during interviews.
In 2009 there has only been 12mm of rain in the region where I live and in many other regions of New South Wales and Victoria there has been even less. We need rain and there seems very little of it in weather forecasts for the foreseeable future.
ABOVE: A collection of photos and tributes from the fire emergency
ABOVE: A tribute to Channel 9 Newsreader Brian Naylor and his wife – killed in the fires at their home.
The death toll for the bushfires in Victoria has now climbed to at least 84 dead and it is expected to grow further still as fire-fighters struggle to reach the worst affected areas left devastated by the fires.
There are reports that on some roads there are lines of cars with bodies in them, with some doors open as occupants attempted to flee from the onslaught. Most deaths have occurred in the towns of Kinglake (8), Kinglake West (10), St. Andrews (12), Steel Creek (7), Humevale (5), Wandong (4), Callignee (4) and Flowerdale (5) – there are a number of deaths in other towns also.
There are quite a number of seriously injured people in hospital with burns. It is thought that a number of these people may not survive their horrendous injuries.
Some 700 homes are now confirmed destroyed by the bushfires in Victoria.
There are about thirty fires still burning out of control across Victoria, seven more are contained and dozens more are under control. There are some 53 fires in New South Wales with about nine out of control. These fires have burned 100s of thousands of hectares of bush and farmland.