As I mentioned in my post about the bushfires we’ve seen a lot of water bombing helicopters around Geeveston recently. On Friday afternoon and into the early evening we had two seaplanes flying over continuously. It seems that they were also firefighting planes.
Usually by the time I get my camera I have missed these flyovers but these guys kept it up for several hours so I even had time to get my 100-300mm zoom lens.
This was apparently routine work. I can promise you that if there had been an increase in danger to my area I would have been busy packing things not taking photos. I don’t often get to see this type of aircraft so I was quite pleased with these photos.
Update: Saturday. It has been a very hot day with temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius and the firefighters are still hard at work keeping track of the spot fires. It has become very smoky and some people south of Geeveston are reporting cold ash falling but so far everything is OK.
The seaplanes are called Air Tractors. Here is a link to their specs.
It’s been about six weeks since the bushfires that threaten the Huon Valley began. Although we are no longer at crisis point the fires are still burning and with a hot weekend ahead there are statewide fire bans and continued warnings to be mindful that the situation could change rapidly.
Things are getting back to normal in the valley, but normal now includes the daily parade of fire vehicles that I see heading south as I wait for my ride to the Op Shop in the mornings. We’ve become used to seeing the helicopters that fly overhead. They are taking infrared pictures to check for hotspots. We also see the waterbombing helicopters and aircraft flying over the valley every day. The helicopters have a landing site near the school so we hear them coming and going from the shop. Yesterday we heard a few explosions as fallen trees which were too dangerous to remove manually were blown up.
The ground crews work hard digging out the hotspots with machinery or by hand. The fires generated such heat that the soil is still hot in the places that were burned. This is a good reminder of why it’s important to be sure a campfire or rubbish fire is really out. I have enlarged a bit of the TFS webpage information as I thought that it might be of interest to see what they do. The PFS is the Parks and Wildlife Service and the STT is Sustainable Timbers Tasmania, the forestry service they have their own firefighting units.
Firefighters continue to extinguish numerous active fire edges today utilising vehicle based teams, remote area teams inserted by helicopters, and walk-in teams. Crews are supported by aircraft providing targeted water drops to mop up hot areas.
TFS, PWS, STT and supporting agencies will aim to contain and extinguish the fires with the highest priority being Riveaux Road to limit impacts on private property, community and commercial assets, community safety and natural, cultural & heritage values, especially the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Tasmanians are being asked to reconsider using fire as the state moves into several days of bad fire weather. A total fire ban has been declared for all southern municipalities on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd March.
Fire agencies and communities have already experienced a very trying bushfire season, and while it may seem that conditions have abated and life is back to normal, the community needs to be aware that we are still battling serious bushfires.
Residents are reminded to remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation as the current situation may change as warmer weather is forecast.
Areas impacted by fire pose a number of risks and hazards to the public and fire crews. There are still a number of roads closed, and the public must adhere to road closure signage and refrain from entering these areas. Roads impacted by fire remain a significant risk of fallen trees or trees that have potential to fall without notice. Roads may be damaged, have damage to local bridges, and normal roadside warning signs damaged or destroyed. Please slow down and drive to the conditions as emergency service vehicles continue to use these roads.
Apart from the still present risk of fires, our focus is now on recovery. A government services hub has been set up locally to advise people who have lost income due to the fires or have damaged property. People are trying to get back into their normal routines but more than one person I have spoken with has said that it is difficult to do that while the fires are still burning.
Even animals are affected. I see posts on Facebook regarding lost and found pets and for the first few days that I was back at the Op Shop Cindy would howl when I left and I’d hear her howling when I arrived home. Thankfully she has settled down now and instead of being upset, she runs to greet me with her ball when I get home.
Several events are being set up to promote local businesses. January and February are usually our best months for tourism and many operators rely on that money to get through the quieter winter months. A key attraction, The Tahune Airwalk will be out of action for some months while facilities are repaired or replaced.
The other thing that everyone locally is keen to do is to thank the fire service employees and volunteers for the amazing job they have done and are still doing. Fundraisers are being arranged to support the various brigades with new equipment. The firefighters themselves are not allowed to accept money from the public but at least we can let them know how grateful we are for what they do and that they are all heroes.
Since I wrote my last bushfire update things have improved a lot. We had some good rains and that along with some cooler weather enabled the firefighters to do some back burning and mopping up operations, finally dropping Geeveston and the surrounding areas back from “Watch and Act” status to “Advice”.
The fires are still listed as “going” but many of the other areas around the state where there have been fires are now listed as “Patrol” or “being controlled”.
I haven’t said a lot about the fires in other areas because I was telling the story from my own point of view but they were all as serious as the one we were facing and there was some property loss. Also, many hectares of World Heritage listed forests have been burned, Tasmania’s honey industry has taken a major hit due to the loss of leatherwood trees and who knows how much wildlife has been killed. We are extremely fortunate that there was no loss of life and so few homes burned. It could have been much, much worse.
The worst of it is we may find ourselves in this situation again next summer or any summer. This could be our new normal and that is a scary thought.
I am at home. I could have come home a few days ago but I picked today as a good day firstly because it was more convenient for Naomi and secondly because of my trip to the Wooden Boat Festival yesterday.
Apart from smelling a bit stale and needing a good vacuum and dust my house is fine. I will have to get on to the cleaning bit because the real estate agent rang to ask if she could bring a potential buyer to have a look at it on Monday.
A day to laze around at home enjoying my own space would have been nice but it will have to wait, there are dust bunnies to hunt.
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.
Last Friday evening we had our town Christmas Parade which was put on by the local fire brigade and participated in by local schools, clubs and businesses. We were lucky with the weather, the skies were black but it didn’t rain.
I was in town quite a while before the parade began so I took some photos of the Christmas windows in Church Street and a couple of vehicles being prepared.
The crowds seemed to be down a bit this year although it often seems like half the town is in the parade anyway. I chose a different spot from previous years where I could photograph the floats as they entered the main street.
Our Op Shop had a float again this year and we were very pleased to be named the best motorised float. I didn’t ride on it because I wanted to go into the town to take photos.
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.