Bushfire Update: 4 February

Today the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and I were all in Huonville, thankfully not at the same time.

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/raw-pm-visits-tasmanian-bushfire-evacuation-centre/video/8837584b1

The fires are still burning. We had three cooler days which allowed the firefighters to get some back burning done but on Sunday I saw that Geeveston was once again on emergency alert. I spent an anxious afternoon and evening listening to the radio and checking Facebook posts as the fire came close to the southern end of Geeveston and threatened communities further south. Sadly several houses were lost that day but thankfully nobody was killed or injured. It has been over three weeks now that these fires in the Huon Valley and other parts of Tasmania have been burning.

I was in Huonville to apply for an emergency assistance grant which the government had made available to people who had been forced to leave their homes because of the fires or who had been unable to work because their place of work was in the fire zone.

The local Scout and Guide Hall was being used to process claims. I arrived at about 2:20pm to find a long, long, line zigzagging across the room. It took me a full two hours to be processed and paid. It was quite a weird experience and made me think about people who have been permanently displaced from their homes and have to deal with this sort of situation all the time.

The government workers running the operation were doing a great job though, they had a team of maybe a dozen workers processing information before sending us off with our paperwork to join another line to collect prepaid debit cards. Everyone was on the whole, patient and good-natured even though it was a warm afternoon. Security staff walked around distributing bottles of water. The staff was helpful and friendly still smiling after a full day of filling out forms.

Outside the building, Naomi was patiently waiting for me to finish. It turned out that one of the security people was someone she knew from Oatlands, that stuff happens all the time in Tasmania. She talked to people coming and going, patted dogs and talked to a little kid who claimed to be lost. He wasn’t, his dad was nearby and he was just looking for some attention I think.

About an hour after I arrived the doors were closed and people arriving were told that they would have to come back tomorrow as it would take till after 6pm to process the people already there. Naomi said that most people took this news quite well although one man became quite angry about it. The financial assistance centre was set up last week and has been open every day. I had not been able to get there sooner as I am staying some distance away which is why Naomi offered to take me.

After that, we drove to my house. It was a strange feeling driving into a bushfire zone. The smoke haze was not too bad and we had good visibility but the whole area smelled of burnt wood.

I knew that my house had not been in the fire zone as a friend had driven past it the other day but it was a huge relief to find everything inside just as I left it. Even most of my plants were still surviving.

Once we had watered the plants, checked that lights and power were still working and I had grabbed a few things I wanted we left. I don’t plan to return home just yet. I want to but the fires are still acting erratically and if I go back now and there is another emergency I would have to find someone to get me out. It’s just too stressful so I will wait until things are a bit safer.

However, it was good to see my home again and I hope it won’t be too long before I can go back.

House edited with Picasa's focal B&W and HDR filters
House edited with Picasa’s focal B&W and HDR filters

Bushfire Update: January 28th

A lot has happened since I wrote my update yesterday.  On Sunday afternoon the winds picked up and in the early evening, the area where I was staying with friends was put on emergency alert as well.

It was unpleasantly smoky. My friends decided that we should go somewhere safer for the night. We piled into two vehicles with three dogs, Polly in her carrier, suitcases,  and a heap of blankets and pillows and drove down to the foreshore at Franklin. It was not as windy or as smoky there and we had some fish and chips from a local shop before settling in for the night.

I have to say it was not the pleasantest night I’ve experienced. Cindy has been very upset and clingy since we left home. If she is not with me she cries. Each of us settled on a seat with a dog beside us and tried to sleep a bit. It was windy in the night and Cindy was restless. I had to get up once and get her some water but after that, she went to sleep.

At dawn, I got up to give her some fresh air, also Polly who was squeezed into the back with the luggage. She didn’t sound too happy and as I didn’t dare take her out of her cage I put the back up so she could at least get some fresh air. Under other circumstances, I would have been happy to be on the river at dawn as all the ducks woke up and a couple of swans drifted by with a flotilla of cygnets. My camera was buried somewhere in the car and my phone battery almost dead so no pictures I’m afraid.

From what we could find out the fire situation was no better but my friends decided to go back to their house for a few forgotten items. It was even smokier and I was frankly not that happy about returning to the house. As we discussed various accommodation options available to us I said that I would call my friends Matt and Ally to see if I could go to their place. They had offered to have me earlier in the week but I wasn’t able to get a ride out of Geeveston then.

I was very relieved that they were happy to come all the way to Huonville to fetch me and my friends drove me there about an hour later. I was very relieved to be on my way but worried about my friends who were talking about staying on at their home. I was very relieved when I sent them a message later in the day to hear that they had left to stay with a friend outside the Huon Valley.

This evening the situation in the Huon is still very bad. Geeveston was evacuated this afternoon and later police door-knocked in Port Huon to tell people to leave. At this stage, I don’t know if I will have a house to go home to but I’m safe, my pets are safe and all my friends made it to safer places even though I feel some of them left it too long to go.  It’s also good to know that up to this point no lives have been lost. Let’s hope it stays that way.

As I have no new photos to share here are some favourite photos of Geeveston, Port Huon and Franklin.

Port Huon, Tasmania-taken through the bus window.
Franklin Wharf
Church Street is the main street in Geeveston.
Our visitor centre in disguise.
Not the worst I’ve seen but this old shed could at least use a new roof.

Bushfire Update 27 January

Those of you who have read my last couple of posts may be wondering how things are going down here in Geeveston.

Since I last wrote the bushfires have increased in size and number dramatically. As I write this just one fire, on the central plateau in the middle of the state has over 40,000 hectares burning. If you want to try and visualise that, a standard sportsfield is 1 hectare.  The three major areas of the fires are the west coast, central plateau and down here in the southwest. On Friday that fire moved perilously close to Geeveston. Quite a lot of my local friends who live on properties on the outskirts of town elected to leave for safer places. An evacuation centre has been set up in Huonville and some people have gone there. Others are staying with friends or family elsewhere. The town has not been evacuated but the Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) said that the conditions were so severe that if homes were threatened they would not be defendable in the conditions we had. The townships of Geeveston, Port Huon, Castle Forbes Bay, and Waterloo were put on Emergency status.

My house is on the Port Huon side of Geeveston and not directly in the path of the fires but there was considerable danger from embers blown ahead of the main fires. It’s a weatherboard house and there is no way that I would be physically fit enough to defend it and of course, I don’t have a car.

Yesterday morning some friends who live in Franklin came and collected me, Cindy and Polly and we are staying with them until the situation settles down. Last night things were a little calmer and the fire alert for Geeveston had been downgraded to watch and act status. However, despite some showers overnight the weather is still hazardous.
As I was writing this we noticed that the smoke looked thicker and we heard on the radio that the fire had changed directions and was heading towards the townships of Glen Huon, Judbury and Lonnavale. Those towns are now on Emergency status.

Even here at Franklin which is 10km from Geeveston, it is quite smoky and bits of burned leaves and bark have been falling. Here is a sample of what has been dropping on my friends’ garden. We are fine but the subject of “If we had to leave, what would you take?” is under discussion.

Burned bark
Burned leaf from Blackwood tree.
Burned leaf.

Further Information:

https://sentinel.ga.gov.au/#/

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jan/27/tasmanian-bushfires-500-firefighters-battle-scores-of-blazes-as-temperature-set-to-soar

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-22/tasmania-braces-for-most-significant-fire-day-of-summer-so-far/10734312

 

Bushfire

Smoke from nearby fires discolours the sky earlier this week.

You may have seen my post from earlier in the week about the bushfires burning around the state. They are all still burning and today, Friday is going to be very dangerous weather, hot, windy and the chance of lightning strikes. The main danger in such weather is embers being carried ahead of the main fires and starting new ones. The fire service says that in these conditions homes may not be defendable.

Naturally, I’ve been a bit distracted by all this and can’t really concentrate on writing. This morning I will probably be taking the pets and relocating to friends in Hobart for a day or so. If I am not able to update you I will ask Naomi to post something so you all know I am OK.

http://www.fire.tas.gov.au/Show?pageId=colGMapBushfires

There’s No Smoke Without Fire

There are a lot of bushfires around Tasmania at present. It’s been dry and vegetation fires are common in summer.

Last week we had a huge thunderstorm and many fires were started by lightning strikes. Many are in remote areas of forest and firefighters both local and visiting ones from interstate and from New Zealand have been doing their best to control them.

Over the last couple of days it’s been hot and windy and two fires, in particular, have become more serious, one of them is in an area called Tahune which a forest area and is 30 kilometres or so from Geeveston. We have been getting a lot of smoke and today ash falling over the town.

This afternoon some friends who live up the Arve Road which leads to the Tahune Airwalk decided to leave, mainly because the air quality is so bad. This is how the sky looked at my place at around 4pm. I took this from inside.

I’ve been living here for 16 years now and I can say that without a doubt these are the worst conditions that I have seen around here.

Hot weather is forecast for most of this week so I don’t see this improving soon.

I am fine. My house is on the Hobart side of town, it’s just unpleasant and a bit scary.

Snapshot Sunday: Water Bombing Helicopter

A helicopter on the way to a fire in the forest outside Geeveston.

I nearly always run outside to look when I hear a low flying helicopter and on Wednesday at around 6pm I was somewhat concerned to see this. I made a few enquiries, social media has its uses, and learned that there was a vegetation fire in one of the forestry coupes outside Geeveston. There is a water tank at the football ground near my house and the helicopter was back and forth for several hours refilling. I have never actually seen one of these in use before so although concerned about the fire I thought it made an interesting picture. The local fire brigade gave an update later on and it seems there is no cause for alarm but it’s going to be hot for a few days, it’s been windy and we’ve not had much rain so you can never be complacent about fires.

Daily Prompt – Climate Control

Climate Control – Let’s Talk About The Weather

The idea that the weather and people’s moods are connected is quite old. Do you agree? If yes, how does the weather affect your mood?

The weather sometimes has a big effect on my moods.  Although I usually don’t mind  wet weather and usually enjoy hearing the rain pouring down when I’m snug inside  several days of constant rain can get me down a bit. I start to feel trapped in the house  when it’s so wet I can’t even walk to the end of the driveway to get the mail because it’s become a sea of mud. Days when there is no sunlight certainly do depress me. I hate dark rooms and having to put the light on during the day. Many people are severely affected by lack of sunlight and suffer a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

There are two types of weather that really affect me though. Windy days and extreme heat.

When I was a child hot weather didn’t bother me as much but now I find that it does. In South Australia where I used to live the summers have become hotter and longer. The last few summers we lived there we would sometimes have temperatures of forty degrees celsius (104 fahrenheit)  for days on end. At night the temperature would only drop by a few degrees and after a few days of this I’d become tired and irritable. I’d hardly have the energy to do anything. It wasn’t just the physical discomfort. I would start to feel as if I had no enthusiasm for anything any more. I also felt anxious about bushfires. I didn’t live in a bushfire prone area but in a climate like that you know that  every summer it’s not a case of if there will be fires but when and how bad. I still worry about that today, although it’s not as hot in Tasmania in summer we do get bushfires. and have had some bad ones  over the years so there is always that tinge of fear in very hot weather.

Twelve-monthly highest maximum temperature for South Australia

Twelve-monthly highest maximum temperature for South Australia
© Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2014, Bureau of Meteorology (ABN 92 637 533 532) | Disclaimer | Privacy | Accessibility

This is the lake at the height of the drought.
This is Lake Dulverton at the height of the drought.

Seeing the effects of drought make me feel sad. People think it rains a lot in Tasmania but parts of it are quite dry at times and for several  years there was very little rain in the central and eastern part of the state. Farmers had to sell stock their stock or kill it if they couldn’t afford to buy feed. Their dams dried up. Lake Dulverton at Oatlands which I’d never seen with a lot of water in it dried up almost completely.  Then happily there were some good rains. I saw a news story that Lake Dulverton was full for the first time in many years, and visiting Oatlands soon after I saw for myself. The sight of a boat on the lake and  fishermen on the bank made me so happy I wanted to sing for joy.

In 2009 after  good winter rains
In 2009 after good winter rains

I especially enjoy the climate in Tasmania because there are four distinct seasons. It’s hard not to feel happy on a bright morning riding on the bus to Hobart and looking out at the reflections on the river or seeing the red golds and green golds of the trees in autumn. I feel happy when I see the first daffodils appear after a long cold winter and again when the tulips start to appear a bit later.  As for when we get a sprinkling of snow I can’t help getting excited about that. It’s still a novelty after nearly twelve years.

St Paul's Catholic Church