Smoke on the Horizon

I live in New South Wales, Australia, in a region called The Upper Hunter.  If any of you have been following the news this week, you’ll know that NSW is currently experiencing an early start to one of the worst bush fire seasons we’ve experienced.

As I write, the Blue Mountains are burning, with a fire front that extends for close to 300km.  The Blue Mountains are a beautiful region west of Sydney with spectacular scenery where people live amongst the trees and the mountains.

Bush fires are an ever present part of living in Australia.  There is probably no Australian who in some way, shape, or form, hasn’t been impacted by them.  Over the last few years, we’ve seen some of the worst fires in our country’s history in Victoria and South Australia.  People have died, and many properties have been destroyed.

My husband and I met when we were volunteer fire fighters twenty five years ago, living in the Pilbara.  We fought many fires, both bush fires and structural fires, and we even had fire trucks as our wedding vehicles.

Neither of us are in the volunteer fire brigade anymore, but this last week I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking back to that period in time, when we leapt out of bed to the sound of the town siren or our pagers and bolted to the fire station.  

For the last week, on the wind has been the smell of smoke.  Every morning and every afternoon, it wafts in through opened windows and doors.  People bring it inside on their clothes, and occasionally it blots out the sunlight for a brief time.  We have two fires near us.  They’re far enough away that our house is safe, but we have friends who were close to evacuation from the Hungerford fire in the Wollemi National Park just last week.  They were saved by a wind change.

In my mind, I have our fire plan sitting, waiting.  We live opposite the town common, which to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t burnt for the whole ten years we’ve lived here.  I walk up there a couple of times each week.  It’s loaded with fuel.  

The forecast this week is ominous for the whole state.  Temperatures in the mid to high thirties (celcius) are predicted, and in some areas, dry thunderstorms.  With a massive fire already burning in the mountains, and numerous other fires across the state, it’s a time of great uncertainty for many, and great effort and risk for the fire fighters.

This week, our thoughts and prayers will be with all of those affected by, and fighting, the fires.  


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