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Fire Update

With the fifteen bodies identified this morning, Victoria Police have now confirmed that 108 people have perished. One small area, Kinglake/Kinglake West, has tragically lost 30 from its community. How many have been injured?

The ABC is reporting that 700 homes have been destroyed.

The Red Cross has asked those donating goods to not take them to centres but to ring and have them picked up, as the flood of supplies is actually slowing things down. They are calling for blood donors to provide plasma for burns victims, and are accepting donations of money to the Victorian Fire Appeal here. The Salvos appeal (situations like this are when the Salvos are invaluable) phone number is 137258.

My heart goes out to everybody who's suffered from this tragedy.

Melbourne ABC have been "inundated" with offers of help, and if there's anything you can do you can go here. Many people will be waking up today knowing that everything they had is gone.

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Communications strategy

How pathetically sad is this...

Ths is what you find on the Murrindindi Shire website under 'Fire prevention' - then 'Be prepared'.

Murrindindi Shire council takes in Flowerdale, Marysville and Kinglake west
This is the whole thing...

"Prior to the summer fire danger period (early November) our Municipal Fire Prevention Officers conduct inspections of properties throughout the Shire. Any properties that are considered a fire hazard are given a notice and require the owner to take action. Failing to obey this notice may result in hefty fines.

If you would like to report a property in the area as a potential fire hazard, please do so by completing a Customer Request Form.

Clearing and maintaining vacant land can be achieved by following this suggested timetable:

October - Inspect your property.  After winter rains and spring growth, grass will have had ideal growing conditions.  Remove all grass, stubble, weeds and undergrowth to a height of not more than 75mm.

November - Re check your property. Re-cut if necessary

December to March - Inspect your property again. This period is considered a critical time to continue with your property maintenance and keep your land in a fire safe condition.

A list of slashing contractors is available from the Local Laws Department.

For any further information please contact Local Laws on (03) 5772 0331 or (03) 5772 0326."

That's the whole thing...

A rational approach to bushfires

When I was young, we lived in south east Gippsland and the Dandenongs experiencing many bushfires and floods. My grandparents and parents, who had experienced the Tasmanian 1929 and Victorian 1939 fires, built shelters into the hillside and covered them with earth, putting corrugated iron on top to reflect the heat. They also built earth walls around the entrance so as to restrict fire approach and retain air movement. We used them on a number of occasions. I remember once in the Dandenongs watching from the bunker as flames jumped across our valley, showering the place with burning embers. The men of the family made little sorties to put out outbreaks with wet hessian on sticks and one knapsack spray until the ground fire swept by us. We lost one house during that time, then they changed their tack and cleared everything from around the houses and sheds for 100 hundred feet.

When I lived in the Snowy Mountains, I built an in ground earth covered home and sheds in the middle of the bush and we survived a massive bushfire unscathed, including a big burning tree collapsing onto our roof. It should be noted that, in the current fires, most of the houses surviving were those whose owners defied the brain dead bureaucracy and ideological greens and cleared, or built earthen homes. Other than that it was pure luck for the small number whose houses didn't explode.

The problem is houses are built out of matchbox material, which is highly inflammable, unlike natural earthen products which can withstand fire. We need a complete change in thinking. You can still live in a tree covered bush environment, as long as you build for that purpose and not for looks or egocentricity.

When you build bonfire homes you are asking for trouble no matter how much care you take of your surrounds. Earthen homes provide all year round stable temperatures, are very energy efficient, low maintenance and extremely safe in most situations, plus they cost a fraction of a pine framed bonfire. Humans seem to built in places and ways which are aesthetic, rather than rational or logical and so we see the results.

Because of climate change and the reality that we will be seeing hotter drier and more volatile conditions, isn't it rational and logical to build your home in situations and in ways which will give you and your home the best chance of surviving unscathed? All homes in the bush should be sunk into the ground and be earth covered, with heat resistant shutters and in-house water supplies, so you can fight it from within and reduce your chances of being harmed.

A friend of mine has built his steel framed home in the ground and has his water tanks sunk below the floor. Only the windows and doors stand out, but they are surrounded by fire resistant plants and if you didn't know it was there, you could walk over it without noticing. Year round it is 25 degrees and all he does is maintain the growth on the roof - also fire retardant plants and bushes. He also has alternative energy so never has to worry about power failures.

Logic should rule our lives, not what looks good but is senselessly vulnerable. But they won't legislate to ensure people build real survival homes, they will stick to supporting the status quo and the rich elite companies who provide coffin homes for greed and profit.


Just to satisfy my curiosity Alan, why did your son by a place backing onto bushland which "is a bushfire disaster waiting to happen"?

Stuart McCarthy,

Stuart McCarthy, when my son bought his house 6 years ago the bush was approx 350mtrs away. Just green fields with the odd gum tree dotted around, then came the looney Greens.

Bloody greenies

Jeez Alan, who'd a thunk the bushland might have grown?!? Bloody greenies and their stupid rain and photosynthesis makin' the plants grow. Concrete the lot I reckon.

A perfect storm

Sorry, Eliot. The system was just not built to cope with a "perfect storm" situation. What occurred on Saturday was the stuff of nightmares, virtually inconceivable till it actually happened.

And doubly so, given that one of those imponderables would include the high level of contribution from firebugs. Anthony Nolan's link should not be unexpected - the newspapers have been talking about half the fires started being lit by cranks; am surprised some here lacked access to this fact in various circulation journals online, as this writer, for example, had.

Brumby warned on the eve of the disaster that Victoria faced "the day from hell", but people could not predict where the cranks would be, so as to be able to stop them. And why should a normal society have had to expect such an irrational, treacherous and unprovoked onslaught from some its supposed own, anyway?

We have reached the stage of having to contemplate that half of the fires starting on an extreme day are caused by wankers!!

The results mean that now that we know what can happen on the most extreme day imaginable, the new variables not previously known, now can be factored in, but sadly only for the future - we cannot undo what 's just been done.

In Adelaide, where firebugs have been a mounting problem for some time, authorities were prepared, carpeting the Adelaide Hills with (expensive)surveillance on the major bushfire days of the heatwave. Results: virtually major fire-free under similarly extreme conditions

But there are dozens of locations like the Adelaide Hills throughout the more extensive, verdant, hilly and populated diverse regions of the state of Victoria - the entire area of Victoria would need far more people to watch over danger-zones than in South Australia could conceive of. As I said yesterday, history demonstrates a pattern related to conditions that makes Victoria the most dangerous place in the country, over and over again, under certain conditions.

And particularly as a cycle culminates, when people have become unwilling thru complacency to clear undergrowth near inhabited homes and towns and are reluctant to pay the extra monies necessary for more comprehensive fire protection. But then, no one ever though Saturday would come, until it came.

"... why should I pay tax I need for my trendy new four-wheel drive, to protect some one else's kids from bushfires because they can't afford live in the inner city and still grow my food for me, when I haven't yet paid massive elite private school fees for my kids, for my wife to ostentatiously pick up in the four wheel drive, running over anyone else who gets in the way, etc, etc..."

Webdiary readers know the usual noises as to this.

Although it may change after this lot.

But don't bet on it, given Australian attitudes toward entitlement / victimhood.

Marysville - rumours of catastrophe flying around

Appalling rumours flying around this morning about a community hall where people in this small town may have fled for safety. May be true.

“Fifteen people are confirmed dead in Marysville so far but this morning Mr Brumby said up to 100 of the town's 500-strong population may have been killed

Bushfire arson data

While it would be very difficult to draw definite conclusions from the data here it certainly appears to support my proposition that the majority of bushfires are deliberately lit.

Our own satellites

I'm quite prepared to be corrected on fire bugs, Anthony.

But regardless of how they start, fires start. And then what?

If it's your house on fire, and your wife and kids out on a country road in the middle of a fire, then it's fairly academic whether it was started by a lightning strike, a discarded cigarette butt or an emotional retard with a box of matches.

I think we should avoid confusing issues here. Fire bugs are a crime management issue. The fires themselves are a disaster management issue.

Given there's very little we can do to prevent fire-bugs from trying to light fires, then we should be minimising risks in other ways:

  • more informed town planning
  • better building codes
  • shelters
  • fuel load management
  • reliable utilities
  • emergency planning and procedures
  • reliable real-time information and communications systems

I heard a fire fighter on radio last night speaking to a community gathering, trying to explain the limits to his crews' ability to offer the townsfolk protection.

I was staggered to hear him admit in the middle of this that he wasn't entirely sure where fires were buring in their part of the country.

Maybe it's time Australia stopped relying on NASA and the European Space Agency for satellite feeds. If India can put satellites up, so can we. Might be handy if we want to know where the fires are.

Another thing, Brumby was on the radio this morning saying that mass evacuations are impractical on logistical grounds.

Bullshit. Everyone in the Carribean from Cuba to Louisiana lives with mass evacuations practically every hurricane season.

Makes better sense than having a hundred people crowd into a community hall for protection just to be burned alive.

More on fire

Hi Eliot...I guess the salient point about the number of fires initiated by the criminally insane is that we may be able to plan against wildfire (ie, lightning strike initiated fires) in the course of extreme fire hazard conditions but that it is virtually impossible to plan against human action in such conditions. 

On consideration...extreme conditions and nil arsonists operating in your area gives one a fighting chance of there being no fires because the odds might favour you with a low incidence of lightning initiated fires.  The other scenario, the one we seem to have been watching, is one in which extreme conditions are gleefully exploited by the deranged to provide a guaranteed disaster. Therefore the combination of the following factors appears to be the problem:

* Fuel buildup

* Suburban homes in bushland areas (poor design)

* Inadequate fire season preparation

* Extreme fire hazard conditions (drought, heat, wind, fuel)

* Uncontrolled access to roads and trails

* Arsonists

I think the public discussion, up until this event, has neglected the latter factor because it really is in the "too hard" basket.  I'd support gating and locking down National Parks and State Forests during extreme periods.  I think the Adelaide experience of successful surveillance in the Adelaide Hills is very informative and probably shows the way forward through monitoring and, as you say Eliot, satellite monitoring as well.


A conversation with a friend in Catani has jogged my memory that we started school a half year early, in the Bayles town hall (5 mile out of Kooweerup) so that  student numbers would be sufficient to rebuild the school that had burned down the year before.


Saturday night and Sunday morning

Re Justin Obodie's idea about bunkers, it occurred to me, too. And one of the infotainment shows also had a look at it, last night. 

A simple idea, and interesting to see if some folk incorporate it into the building of the new homes.

As for Eliot, yes. Bushfires are like recessions. Every one is in deadly earnest imediately after one but  as things drift out of memory complacency slips back in, so that people fall asleep just in time for the next gutzer to slip under their guard.

As for Brumby and co, on top of the transport system stuff ups, this lot will not add to their CV  for the next elections, even if circumstances were singular.

They'd got by on the assumption that they weren't stupid like NSW Labor, but now they will have to graft very hard and very honest in the near future, if they are going to repair  their complacency-created reputations, on a number of issues.

Party is over.

Resonse to Paul regarding fire-bugs

Paul Walter: "... I wonder at Eliot's brusque dismissal of crank firebugs as a factor in arriving at a conclusion as to what happened."

Don't misunderstand me. Fire-bugs may well have been involved, but the point is they needn't be in order to have a major bushfire.

Bushfires are a normal part of our eco-system.

The problem hasn't been with how the fire started, but how the emergency was subsequently managed.

In any case, as I pointed out, it's almost impossible to 'profile' firebugs - so there's little you can do about them. They're insane, after all.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter how the fires start - it's how they grow and how we deal with them.

My tip is there'll be one or two, if any, firebugs actually charged. And they'll have accounted for very little of the damage caused.

Better building regulation would have saved lives

Senior climate campaigner Trish Harrup said some leading climate scientists had said the Victorian bushfire disaster had been affected by climate change.

Ms Harrup said a global climate deal was needed and Australia's promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by as little as five per cent by 2020 was a failure.

"The scale of this catastrophe, coupled with severe floods in Queensland, should be a clarion call to politicians for the need to begin treating climate change as a national emergency,'' she said.

What we have witnessed over the past two weeks is only a taste of what is predicted as the planet warms.

We should get serious about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

For those who choose to live in bushfire prone areas building codes should say that a fire proof pit (bunker) should be mandated on all properties to give people a safe haven when this sort of fire occurs.

Those of us who live in cyclone and earthquake zones have building regulations to protect us. We need to have the building codes that take into account the dangers these risks demand. 


I don't think that "authorities" are being fair dinkum in their management of data around the causes of bush fire.  Lightning strike bush fires do occur in back country.  Arsonists don't walk for miles and miles to start fires in the middle of nowhere because they tend to burn themselves out without receiving a great deal of attention. 

But fires that start near roads, trail heads and property I would say are always set deliberately.  Someone, somewhere has the data.  My guess at that the terrible truth is that the overwhelming majority of bush fires are the consequence of thrill seeking arsonists.  That means we face a major social/criminal problem and that police and fire authorities may have had their heads in the sand for a long time.  The reason? It is so easy to set a fire and so hard to convict that it is near to impossible to prevent except by the imposition of quite extraordinary measures like severe restrictions on freedom of movement on extreme danger days.  And even that may not work.

Difficult.  Very difficult.

In the future....

This letter in the SMH makes sense:

The loss of life in Victoria proves it is time to design a shelter for rural homes, similar to the underground refuges that America's Midwest farmers have developed as their family's last-resort shelters from tornadoes. These livesaving bunkers do not need to be expensively built and fitted out. Keith Binney Neutral Bay

I said similar in a conversation yesterday.

In fact, why haven't we done this before?

Justin, hi! Some house owners already have such bunkers, See my comment below at February 10, 2009 - 3:29pm.:"I don't know if you saw the couple on television who, against the odds, survived the firestorm because the wife had nagged the husband into building an enclosed cinder-block fire-proof shelter."

And indeed, shelters are a common feature of homes in Tornado Alley.

The types of shelter we'd need here could be built from autoclaved aerated concrete (Boral, Hebel, etc), which has good thermal insulation values and is non-combustible.

They'd be as cheap as chips to build. The couple I saw on television built theirs at ground level, a few metres from their house.

I'd be advised by others more expert in such things, but it seems they don't even have to be underground like in the US midwest to withstand fires 

They could be a mandatory consent condition attached to building approvals by local government authorities.

In fact, why haven't we done this before?

Good question Eliot

Hi Eliot, how's it hanging old mate ;-)

I agree, why haven't they done it before?

A mate (from the bush) was telling me yonks ago one of their neighbours dug a hole and sunk a shipping container in it. Easy. Of course it had nothing to do with fire, rather to keep those helicopters from seeing his cultivations - apparently it worked perfectly when he got it all rigged up.

It would be so easy to have communal shelters in small neighbourhoods where people could reach them within 3 minutes or less.

If we are going to rebuild these burnt out villages maybe it would be a good time to introduce the mandatory thing and have proper shelters, proper early warning/communication and proper fire drill for the residents etc.


Belated update:

Here in  Adelaide, am listening to ABC 4.00 news. They are just relating the fury of authorities as to bushfires lit by cranks about Mt. Lofty today,  just extinguished by firefighters.

recurring patterns

Just come here from a bit of googling as to big bushfires, particularly in that usually lush and beautiful part of the country known as Victoria.

Events like last weekend are by means rare and follow much the same pattern, resulting in vast acreages of burnt out countryside and often heavy loss of life. 1851, 1898 1926, 1939 and early forties all occured on a massive scale. Mention of the 1962 Dandenongs fires, which killed 32, jogged a memory of that time, when I was a tacker staying with my nanna at Noble Park. A filthy hot day around 40 and the smoke was thicker than the Melbourne Victory cheer squad. A truly awful day.

Having just come from the ABC site, where they have an article about bush fire arsonists, highlighted by Prof. Paul Wilson, a well known criminologist and his profile involving (mainly) young men characterised as having chips on their shoulders and utterly no remorse,  I wonder at Eliot's brusque dismissal of crank firebugs as a factor in arriving at a conclusion as to what happened. 

The fires did not start by themselves.

There are other reasons why messes continue to occur with Australian bush fire management, but let's be not too keen just to politicise things.  In the fullness of time it will all come out the wash in the wake of royal commissions and the like and likely, the more indolent political and bureaucratic heads will roll one way or another and a good thing thing that, too.

But let's be not be too quick in absolving the malicious prime culprits - they are sods and hanging would be too good for them, as far as this writer is concerned. 

A reality check

If you live in a bushfire prone area you are going to be caught up in a bushfire sooner or later.

I think the notion that people stay and use plastic water hoses to try and save houses is absurd.

Just run.

And today's very special idiot is...

The Catch the Fire Ministries has tried to blame the bushfires disaster on laws decriminalising abortion in Victoria.

The evangelical church's leader, Pastor Danny Nalliah, claimed he had a dream about raging fires on October 21 last year and that he woke with "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".

Pastor Nalliah said he was helping to co-ordinate fire relief, including providing trucks to distribute clothes and food and giving his own blood, but he said he must tell "the truth".

The 'Criminal Minds' Fantasy

As predicted, the tabloid media are widely seeking to "explain" the Victorian fire-storm bungle in terms of the malign activities of 'fire bugs'.

The most absurd flights of fancy concern the possibility of "profiling" fire bugs in order to apprehend them ahead of time.

This from the Telegraph:

Profiling an arsonist is as difficult as controlling the fires they start, according to psychologists.

While statistically almost all fire starters are male, experts struggle to define what drives them.

Profiling any psychological 'type' for the purposes of law enforcement or crime prevention, contrary to the conceits of Hollywood script writers and pop-psychologists, founders on the simple fact that no psychological testing of any sort has the sensitivity, let alone specificity of clinical testing.

I won't trouble you with the mathematics (unless specifically asked), but while a blood test for something like HIV/AIDS has about 99.9 per cent sensitivity and near as dammit 99.99 specificity, a psychological 'profile' of someone like an arsonist would be doing very, very well indeed even if it had just 75 percent sensitivity and specificity.

If you do you sums based on those figures, you'll see that while an HIV test, say, would throw up about one false positive in a hundred even for a high risk population with a real infection rate of 1.5 percent, then even for a population where one in a hundred people were actual arsonists, profiling them with tests based on even 75 percent sensitivity and specificity would result in 25 false positive arsonists for every 0.75 real arsonists detected!

In other words, you'd falsely arrest 25+ innocent people for every actual individual arsonist you caught!

And a quarter of your real arsonists would still be walking free!!

They don't tell you that on 'Criminal Minds'. do they?

Aussie spirit is not a myth

I remember 'in the old days' when I belonged to a small rural fire brigade , it was the normal thing to burn and plough fire breaks where ever one could on the approach of the fire season. Long grass on roadsides was slashed to the fenceline. Then there was concern about rare orchids in the area, so that put a stop to that. Roundup was introduced to stop ploughing.

For the same reasons fuel reduction in forests was drastically reduced, though I believe they were supposed to be stepped up again in the last few years. I was reading last night on the fire reports that parts of fires were extinguishing when they hit the 2006/2007 fire areas, and even going out in areas heavily burnt in 2003. Proves the case for increasing fuel reduction burn.

Back to my past, we had in place plans in the event of fire, for both suppression and support of fire crews. A central place was designated for families to gather for protection, everyone in our tiny community knew what was involved. In the case of disaster, our community would have had that Aussie spirit to rebuild and support each other, it is not a myth.

The communties on the outskirts of Melbourne are filled with people who had no concept of what is involved in fire fighting or protecting their homes. They did not grow up with this knowledge and fear of fire bred into them. I say had no concept, some certainly do now, they have lost any romantic notion that a fire truck is available for every home.

I read today the story of a survivor - he tried to leave the house but the radiant heat was too much. He mentions a woodpile up against the house catching fire. What!!! there has been a huge education program over the years promoted by the CFA and people still put wood piles against their house. I find that unbelievable. Unfortunately, people who grew up in the city have the notion that the CFA is able to provide full protection. In 'normal' fire conditions, a person can easily survive in a 'properly prepared' house and leave once the fire front has passed. Saturday was far from normal.

The whole thing comes down to human error and the misconception that someone will come knocking on the door and give a personal warning. A disbelief that any real danger exists until they can see flames. Now the authorities are talking about text messages and audio warnings. Still people will miss out or ignore warnings. And get a few 'cry wolf' scenarios, and people will ignore warnings anyway.

Human nature being what it is, the blame game will soon be in full swing for sure. I hope people take full advantage of the Royal Commission to have their say.

Real limits to what can be achieved by education programs

Christine Randall: "What!!!   there has been a huge education program over the years promoted by the CFA and people still put wood piles against their house."

There are very real limits to what can be achieved by education programs, if for no other reason than there is always population turnover in target audiences. So, you have to go on re-educating communities more or less indefinitely, because the target audience comprises a different audience every couple of years.

This would be especially the case in communities that are growing, like the communties you mention on the outskirts of Melbourne .

Also, raising awareness is not the same as motivating people to change their behaviour. That's actually very difficult to do.

A far more enduring, productive strategy is to 'hard wire' change into the urban environment by regulating building safety codes, enforcing hazard reduction, reducing fuel loads, ensuring adequate communications and utilities, and the like.

I don't know if you saw the couple on television who, against the odds, survived the firestorm because the wife had nagged the husband into building an enclosed cinder-block fire-proof shelter.

Their house burned to ashes - but they walked from the shelter alive and well.

Make such shelters a consent condition on all building approvals. Don't just rely on husbands to be 'educated' by nagging wives.

Six days advance warning often means nothing

Christine Randall: "You cannot evacuate people on the offchance of a fire, so six days advance warning often means nothing."

If you can evacuate the entire City of New Orleans overnight on the off chance a hurricane will overwhelm the city's levies, I cannot see why you cannot evacuate, or otherwise better prepare small semi-rural communities on the outskirts of Melbourne with the benefit of nearly a full week prior warning of a bushfire.

It's not as if people were not warned these would be huge fires - after 12 years of drought, with huge temperatures and forecast high winds in the state.

People were predicting a bush-fire horror weekend. Predicted it.

Here's my tip: there will be increasing public and media hysteria about "fire bugs" and lot's of facile nonsense about the "heroic Aussie spirit" to divert attention from the systemic failures which have led to this disaster.

For a start, it's plain that town planning and urban and environment management aspects of the overall disaster prevention programme at the State and municipal levels have been completely inadequate.

Also, survivor after survivor is coming forward to explain how they owed their survival only to receiving (and complying with) informal and ad hoc warnings to evacuate their homes from experienced neighbours and local volunteer fire-fighters in the absence of timely official warnings from elsewhere.

As for coordinated, district wide warnings from the police and State agencies, nothing.

Failure to make adequate warnings left residents stranded

Here's a case in point:

TONY EASTLEY: If I could ask both of you, there has been some talk about you know, whether people were given enough warning about these fires. Were you aware of the seriousness of the overall situation on Saturday?

PETER TRAPP: No. No. I could see there was smoke in Kilmore. I knew there was fires but I didn't even know how bad the Kilmore fires were and I knew there were fires out in Gippsland and all of those types of areas but I did not know of any other fires.

KIM JESS: Look, if Tony hadn't knocked on our door…

TONY EASTLEY: This is your neighbour?

KIM JESS: This is our neighbour who is with the DSE, I would almost certainly be dead. It's only that he told us that the fire in Kilmore, he is clearly, he is an experienced in bush fires and he knew that the fire might come but I don't know why there wasn't a general warning.

You know, if Tony knew that then surely the DSE in general knew that and there could have been urgent alerts for Kinglake.

Inconceivable outcome

So sad.  I have such a deep respect for bushfire, let alone a firestorm, that I've long been in the habit of avoiding them by a big margin.  Thirty years ago a group of us from my then local bush fire brigade managed to save ourselves and the truck and that was all.  Since then even the hint of a fire has seen me twice move from a holiday camp.

I travelled through parts of the Victorian fire affected regions in January and it was clearly very dry and it seemed to me that there was a considerable fuel buildup expecially on the road between Myrtleford/Beechworth.

Which raises the old issue: was enough hazard reduction/fuel load reduction burning done in the off season? My own view is that in NSW much more burning needs to be done. 

As to pyromaniacs - at least in areas like the Blue Mountains National Park I'd happily agree to closing the entire Park during periods of high emergency and simply arresting on suspicion anyone found in a forbidden area.  Gate the fire roads and lock them on high danger days.  But I guess that this solution would only work in such an area and could not be stretched to whole region lockdowns.

It looks like we really need a major rethink.

Our own Private Idaho

Allan Curran, if business could have been even the slightest bit less rapacious and government even the slightest bit less gutless and probably venal, a bipartisan thing and stood up to so-called "developers", particularly when provided with advice by CSIRO etc, others would have not felt the need to react, on the basis of the science, by fighting to protect those bits and pieces of commons left , before they too fall to the axe or the flame, further damaging the environment.

When I think of real stupidity, I think of non productive tax dodging and subsidy sucking scams like Gunns Tasmania and Cubby Creek, let alone the neolib PPP's nonsenses which have beggared infrastructure development in deference to the needs once again of vested interests, and have only been variations of Thatcherist market fundamentalism. And I think of the merchant bankers orchestrating it all from the sidelines.

The lackadaisical, haphazard pattern of development across the country historically, has itself been contributive to the disaster, if one thinks more deeply of it.

Crucial resources are squandered for little better than a rort for the benefit of vested interests, as taxpayer $'s are dissipated on urban privatisations for simulacra systems based on artificial "situation goods", that can do no more than mimic the real thing, as public transport proves.


On a different note, it is hard to believe that people would want to go and light bushfires on a 47 degree day with full-on northerlies. My response living in Adelaide, which also experienced the heatwave, was to head for a quiet spot with a bit of air-conditioning, and sit it out.

Why would you want to hop in a car, risking detection, and head off somewhere to light a fire, either being too stupid or worse still, too emotionally cold, to realise the likely harms arising from such behaviour?

It's hard not to want to tear them limb from limb. Am almost hopeful that it might yet happen, as investigations turn up their identities and their communities find out who they are. I know they are mental cases , but many people "see red" at the moment.

Anyway, now we get to experience just a tiny fraction of what a disaster the recent Israeli Gaza incursion must have been for Gazans.

As do the poor drowned rats of Queenslanders at the other end of the scale...

The anger will set in once the shock begins to subside

It will be some time before the nation is able fully to appreciate both the complete scale and final meaning of the terrible bushfire disaster.

However, we'd be blind to not notice that there has been some appalling failure of the disaster management aspects of the fires, at very least.

Cars filled with panic stricken women and kids, smashing into each other going opposite directions on bush roads at the height of the disaster, a full six days after the first warning were aired.

Telecommunications failures. Water delivery systems failures. Nothing seems to have worked properly.

Even the Premier couldn't find his elderly parents trapped for hours behind the fire-line and beyond telephone communication.

The anger will set in once the shock begins to subside.

1,836 people died when Hurricane Katrina ploughed into a city of 1,000,000 people.

What was the population of Kinglake and Bendigo and the aptly named Kilmore by contrast?

A few thousand?

Do the math.

There needs to be, and doubtless there will be a full Royal Commission into this appalling catastrophe.

Christ, I live in Sydney and even I heard days and days ago that this weekend was going to be a bush-fire horror in Victoria.

So why the fuck were hundreds of elderly people and children left down there in the face of that right down to the last minutes?


A Royal Commission

A Royal Commission has already been announced.

The 'leave early or stay and defend your homes' policy has worked pretty well for the last 20 years, but the conditions on Saturday were just too extreme. People panicked or were caught unawares when the change came through. It seems a lot of people just do not understand the dangers that fires can pose under such extreme conditions and didn't spend the time to keep an eye on things when they knew fire was in their area. I heard one bloke on TV say he happened to look out the window and he saw flames - didn't hear anything above the air-conditioner.

You cannot evacuate people on the offchance of a fire, so six days advance warning often means nothing. I remember reading that nursing home residents were evacuated from places where it was known that there was a fire threat from existing fires.

The Bendigo fire began on Saturday, with the loss of one life, about 50 homes. Bendigo is a city some 100 kms, by road, away from Kilmore.

Premier Brumby's parents live in the western part of the state where yet another fire began on Saturday. There was no loss of life in that fire, though a man was badly burnt while moving stock.

On the whole, after such a horror weekend, with fires spread over the whole state, I feel that the volunteers and fire services are doing a marvellous job. They have contained a 10000 hectare fire that has hardly ever been mentioned on the news, less than 40 kms away from my home after fighting it for days. Heroes.

Richard: Welcome to Webdiary, Christine.

The show must go on

Eliot, you may be right, and there will be time for such examinations.  Having seen Ash Wednesday 2 (26 years next week) at very close proximity I know that there can be holes in plans and panicked acts that can easily result in death.

Sometime soon, though,we're going to have to do a complete rethink about how we live in environments that look set to become increasingly more hostile.

In the meantime, primal needs must be tended to, people helped back onto their feet.  I hope everyone's doing what they can.  For my part I've initiated a fundraiser show that I hope will raise at least ten thousand dollars. The support  and encouragement so far has been a restorative of faith in human nature, and I hope others elsewhere are creatng events through which people can help out.

Anger may well come after the shock, but it's those in shock who will take the longest to become aware of their predicaments.  Cushioning the impact as much as possible is the only humane option.

For an example, how do we quickly get accommodation and infrastructure restored?  At least then these folk would have a cornerstone, if not a foundation, on which to rebuild.

A lady sheltering in a school (they have to reopen sometime) was saying on the 7:30 Report tonight, "I want to go home,but where is home? It's only rubble."   Capice?

Victoria's hottest day in history and more to come

Bob Brown, a senator who leads the Australian Greens, said the bushfires showed what climate change could mean for Australia.

"Global warming is predicted to make this sort of event happen 25%, 50% more," he told Sky News. "It's a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change."

Models suggest global warming could bring temperature rises as high as 6C for Australia this century, if global emissions continue unabated, with rainfall decreasing in the southern states and increasing further north. As if to demonstrate that, Queensland, in the north, is currently experiencing widespread flooding after rainfall of historic proportions.

More than 60% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone in the worst floods for more than 30 years. Some 3,000 homes have been affected, and the main highway between Cairns and Townsville has been cut off.

At least 130 people killed in Victoria, as well as several killed or missing in Queensland floods, thousands of lives changed forever. This is what will be repeated with even more frequency unless we take climate change seriously.

While we still have the capital to change we must change now before it is too late. We need to be on a war foot to reduce our carbon emissions anything less will result in even more tragedies.

Hot days

John Pratt, let me tell you what myself and 14 friends will be doing before the weekend.

My son's home on Sydney's North Shore backs on to some bushland which by any stretch of the imagination is just overgrown scrub, and is a bushfire disaster waiting to happen.

After requests to the local council to clean it up, we were informed by the two Green councillors that it is a protected area, and nothing can be done. However I have news for these idiots.

So before the weekend myself and 14 friends equipped with chain saws and various other pieces of equipment, will clear this overgrown area about 100 metres from my son's home. Should a bushfire come up the valley in the coming weeks my son's house will have a chance to be saved. We have aranged for two companies to haul the chopped down scrub away and dispose of it.

In the coming weeks we will help four more home owners in this cul-de-sac to do the same. If this upsets the local Greens, so be it.

My message to Bob Brown is you are welcome to come and watch what we are doing but if you get in the way you had better have health insurance.


Richard, thank you for this thread.

The latest official death toll is 126, though I just heard on ABC local radio that it had climbed to 128.

Likely to go higher

Vic Police say the toll is likely to go higher as they enter more affected areas.

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