Sunday, October 11, 2015

The devastation of a bush fire

I started this blog on 21st October 2007, Blogger tells me. Over the past 8 years, I have enjoyed taking hundreds of photos of everything on our bush block, from spring flowers to echidnas and roos to insects and birds and trees and fungi. Now, the blog has suddenly attained a special significance for me. It's become a record of everything that was.

On 6th October, a large bush fire that burned 4000 hectares in the Lancefield-Benloch area in Victoria (Australia) also burned our block. It didn't just burn bits here and there, as fires can sometimes do. It burned all 40 hectares from south to north, from west to east. The only thing left is a small oasis in the north-eastern section where our house - miraculously - still stands. I guess this is probably due to several things: the way we built the house to be as fire-proof as possible, with no gardens and as little vegetation around as possible, plus we took down 14 trees two years ago; the hard work of the fire helicopter crews who we believe dumped at least one lot of water on us; miraculous good luck.

But the rest of it is, as our neighbour put it, "a moonscape". Piles of firewood away from the house are not even a pile of coals - they have completely disappeared. Many trees are blackened for 60-80% of their height. Other trees have been so thoroughly burned that there are holes where their roots used to be. No doubt many trees are burned on the inside and are now in danger of falling (quite a few have already). And every vestige of wildlife that I have seen is gone - frogs, insects, lizards, and who knows what else. Probably all the possums, numbats, owls, bats and echidnas. I have seen some roos and a wallaby but no signs yet of the wombats.

I'm devastated, but the landscape looks so unreal that it's barely sunk in yet. I feel like everything that I loved about the place is gone - everything that fascinated, excited, intrigued and interested me, let alone everything that gave me joy when I was there.

But I will continue this blog. Friends who know have assured me that regeneration will happen. I am not sure when, because the outlook for rain in the next few months is not good, and summer is coming. But I am trying to have faith that regeneration will come, that plants and animals and insects will return. Still, I wonder how and to what extent.

Until then, I will post some photos of what it was like (and you can go back through this blog for plenty more), and then some photos of what it is like today.



Meredith Costain said...

Oh Sherryl, heart wrenching. But yes, the regeneration will come. The animals too.

Anonymous said...

Was your trail camera out on a tree still? Or did you have it inside? Hopefully inside.

It is still starkly beautiful, but not in the same way it was, obviously. I can't imagine how much wildlife has been lost, and what there is to eat for those that survived...


Marjory said...

A St Andrews friend had a similar situation some years ago, Sherryl. Her house was saved but the bush destroyed. It was shocking, but new green tips soon shooted and now the place is as green as it was before. I'm sure the same will happen to your place. Good Luck.

Sherryl Clark said...

I know, Meredith - but hard to believe right now. Still, I've seen it happen in other places! Will post photos when it does.

Tracey, sadly the trail camera was on a tree and is now a lump of plastic! I was surprised there was even that much of it left.

Marjory, stories like that give me hope - thanks!

Hels said...

I knew we didn't have enough rain this winter but who expected high temperatures in the first week of October? Hope you and your family are well prepared for the bushfire season.

Sherryl Clark said...

We had built our house to be as fire-proof as possible so I am sure that helped. Ironically there will be nothing to prepare this summer as there is nothing left to burn!

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