If you’ve ever opened your oven and felt pure, dry heat venture forth and overcome, then you have an idea of what it was like in the state of Victoria on February 7, 2009.
Melbourne baked. The tinderbox of bush surrounding our capital city was mere accelerant for mother nature’s disaster cauldron that day – she mixed and evoked the elements of heat, wind and flame to create a monster so immense, it took weeks to subdue and served to remind us all (again) that we operate on human power while she dictates the terms.
I’d never experienced a day of weather like it. As Australians, we’re used to heat and drought. I’ve been lucky enough to visit countries on the equator and have spent time in our continent’s bush and north. It’s a hot land, but when you opened your backdoor on February 7th last year, it was almost like stepping into a fan-forced oven.
Many, many words have been written about Victoria, Australia on that day. There’s a wonderful personal memorial and some fantastic photos at ‘Little Miss Emma’s blog’. It’s an amazing read, highlighting how quickly events transpired on Black Saturday, and includes a pic of our city as the backdrop to a small bush setting of charred devastation.
We live a safe (enough) distance from the fire front, although it crept to within about 20 km of us in the days after the initial firestorm. My main memory is sitting at this keyboard, sweating and trying to write, while listening to the ominous chew, chew, chew, chew of low-flying Elvis helicopters as they flew from the city to fill at our nearby river and fight the fire. We smelled smoke. It was in our washing, our hair and the redness of the sky told us of the suffering of our neighbours.
One night at dusk, we watched four helicopters fly ‘home’ in formation to refuel. For a couple of weeks, they were a constant reminder of the war waging between fire and bush, a battle that confronts our sunburned country on a regular basis. Black Saturday reminds us that when this war is extreme, we are tiny in the face of nature’s elements.
We remember the loss of life, love and land ~ February 7, 2009