Sunday, 8 February 2009

Bushfire Memories

Col suggested I share about the bushfire incident from when I were a kid I mentioned in my last post. OK, cool - great idea.

There were many different bushfire experiences growing up on Sydney's Northern Beaches... there was one time we stood atop Beacon Hill one early summer evening when we could literally see a ring of fire glowing all around us within a few miles distant...

Where I grew-up, our place was about two blocks away from a large bush reserve, commonly known as Manly Dam, in Allambie (Sydney). About every 6-8 years-or-so it would burn itself out, in the naturally-occurring cycle of the Aussie bush... sometimes naturally, sometimes man-induced (such as with a broken piece of glass doubling as a magnifying glass on a hot summers' day). While our place was never under major threat of any immediate danger or damage, we used to worry about the occasional hot falling ash if it all went up. Some of the houses that backed onto the bush reserve didn't fare much better each time. One or two went up in my time there (about 20-ish years).

This one year (I would have been about 14), the far side of the hill went up, on the other side of the dam reservoir. A group of us rode our pushies (ie push bikes) up besides the dam wall, where we could get a good showing of the fire. Little did we know...

The fire came roaring down the thickly wooded hill. And I mean ROARING - it was that loud. It was about 1-2 kms away (about a mile) right in front if us, but traveling parallel to us. Trees were exploding - no, I'm not kidding or exaggerating. As it steamrolled down the hill, gaining speed as it consumed everything in its path, it seriously began to boil. Boil.
Boiling... kinda like the top-left of this pic too.

The heat on our faces and clothes was extraordinary. The air was physically being sucked into the fire... I could feel the air on my legs behind me as I faced the fire... but the actual breeze was blowing from left-to-right.

While where we were standing we weren't in any immediate danger, a firetruck came screaming past us, and we copped a fair-mouthful of abuse from them as they roared past to basically "get the fuck out of here!!!"

Needless to say, we got the heck out of there toot-quick on our bikes, back down the road the other way.

The fire burnt itself out when it reached the water's edge... and no homes were lost - that time.

I went for a walk thru the area a few days later - and there was NOTHING left in places... no stumps, nothing. Just totally wiped out.

But I'll never forget the sight of a hillside literally boiling with fire... rolling down the hill.
Peas be with ewe
Mal :)

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  1. We were just watching the late news of the Victoria bushfires Mal. And your description of a bushfire was so spot on.

    The death toll just keeps getting higher and I can't even watch the news cause we have a full house and everyone else is asleep. Except me and this bug that keeps crawling all over my monitor.

  2. That is exactly how someopn described these fires in Kinglake to me, it was like the fire moved like water across the ground. IT also shot pellets of hot bullets which they assumed to be parts of trees in a horizontal way..and that is how it moved, like fluid. The horrendously strong winds on Saturday, swirling and the temperature almost 50 degrees..which would have been, as you said, hundreds of degrees..there was nothing to do.
    Oh, this guy, he also said the steel front gate to his property was ON FIRE! And the white lines on the centre of the road used as a guide to get outta there, they were on fire too. WTF! Insane, and sad.

  3. You were very lucky kids!

    I was so sad to hear how many people were consumed in these latest fires - even in their cars. Horribly sad.

  4. "Get the fuck out of here"...good advice...I know now that although in a normal fire the rules rural fire service advice...there are no rules when it boils like that...its terribly sad.
    Glad you took their advice!

  5. Thats the problem with kids around here too! Too complacent! They are that used to it being so close they don't think its gonna get them! I have been making my kids watch the news today, sometimes reality needs to be scary so they can understand its not a game. You really need to keep far away. The minute all the local kids see smoke they go running to "check it out!" They looked a little shocked when they saw the devastation in Vic. I have homeschool friends down there, its not a great time for any of us!

  6. Thank you. That was a fun post to write.

  7. Yes, yes, yes Karisma. I don't normally expose my kids to too much of the tragedy on the news, but this is different. I want them to know how a stupid stunt can cause so much death to innocent people. I could care less about the houses, they are bricks and mortar, just things, but lives cannot be replaced.

  8. Strong post - I had a real sense of what it must have been like to witness such a destructive phenomenon.

    So sorry to hear about all the deaths in Victoria. What horror.