Bushfire Update: 1 March

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.

The latest fire warnings.

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.

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

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.

Community Information:
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.

For information on current road closures, please visit the Tasmania Police website: http://www.police.tas.gov.au/community-alerts/

TasRECOVERY – Information and Service Hubs:

 

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.

Smoke from nearby fires discolours the sky.

There’s No Place Like Home

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”.

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

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.

But:

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.

Photinia Hedge 2018

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

RDP Tuesday: Rain

It’s Raining Again

Whether we have it or we don’t have it rain plays an enormous part in our daily lives.  We can’t live without it but too much of it at one time can cause havoc and not enough of it is devastating.

One of the things that attracted me to the Huon Valley is how green it is. I’d spent most of my life in South Australia, the driest state and the rivers and lakes, green grass and flowers here appealed to me. It does seem to rain more here than some other parts of the state. Naomi says that it always rains when she comes to visit me. She was here Saturday and it was dry until about 5pm and then as she started to think about going home down came the rain.

The view of the Huon River from halfway up Percy St, Port Huon

Not enough rain at the right time of year can be bad for farmers crops but unseasonal rain and hail in summer can ruin the cherry crop and growers lose a lot of money because damaged cherries are no good for export.

At times there are areas that are very prone to flooding. Launceston often suffers from floods in winter but the city has put in levees that they hope will protect the city from the worst of them. We had bad flooding in the north a couple of winters ago when several rivers rose dangerously high.

Huon River in flood at Huonville. photo from ABC news.

The Huon River sometimes floods in winter, usually, it is not too bad in Huonville, just water over the road in a couple of places. Two or three times since I’ve been here I’ve seen water in the main street and a couple of businesses have been affected but a couple of years ago there was a situation created by high tides in the estuary, melting snow and a lot of rain and there was a much worse flood. Homes were evacuated, businesses were flooded and livestock lost.

Tasmania isn’t always wet though, people don’t realise it but Hobart is the driest state capital after Adelaide and we have had serious droughts in Tasmania, especially in the eastern part of the state. The area where Naomi lives in the centre of the state is farming country and she often told me how distressed the local farmers were when they had to destroy sheep or sell them for very little because the land would not support them. Lake Dulverton at Oatlands where she lives dried up completely during a particularly bad drought.

This is the lake at the height of the drought.
image fisherman
Fisherman December 2009

I am fortunate enough that my house is connected to the town water supply but I have friends who rely on rainwater tanks and when the rain doesn’t come they have to buy water.

Mostly I don’t mind when it rains. Of course, it is a nuisance at times, at the Op Shop for example when it is too wet for us to put anything outside the shop and the bad weather keeps customers away. Or when I go to the cricket and the match is rained out.  On the other hand, rain is nice to cool everything down after a hot day and I like the sound of rain on a metal roof. Without rain, there would be no rainbows.

Rainbow in a dark sky.

References:

https://thenewdaily.com.au/weather/2013/11/21/australian-weather-myths-tested-city-fare/

https://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/huon-river-flood/image-gallery/1a34c091785188721f27c875ecc18d85

All The Fun Of The Fair: The Huon Show 2018

I haven’t been able to visit the Huon Show for several years and this year I really wanted to go. I was considering catching the bus to Ranelagh where the show is held when Ally called me and said that she and Matt wanted to go too. Could they come and stay with me on Friday night? Of course, I said yes. Saturday morning came and the weather was bright.  We set off early to be sure of getting a park close to the Showgrounds. Ranelagh is just outside of Huonville so we were there in less than half an hour.

Alpaca at the Huon Show
I love Alpacas.

We all wanted to see the animals more than anything else and we spotted the Alpaca enclosure as soon as we came through the gate. There are several breeders in the area and some others had come from other parts of the state to show off their animals.

Kids and calves

I also particularly wanted to see the cows this year. The reason for that is that I have been reading about the issue of de-horning cows in “Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss”  this week. The Swiss are having a vote on whether this practice should be continued. I do see the odd cow near my house but I wanted to see if the practice was widespread in Tasmania. Well, I saw several breeds of cows, Jerseys, Herefords, Friesian etc and nary a horn between the lot of them I’m afraid. I decided to look it up and found in the RSPCA knowledge base a document that says that it is legal to de-horn cattle in every state and territory in Australia.

This has to be the largest cow I’ve ever seen.

https://kb.rspca.org.au/is-dehorning-of-cattle-legal_274.html

https://www.ava.com.au/policy/84-dehorning-cattle

There are some guidelines about what age and how this should be done and apparently it is recommended that a procedure called disbudding be used instead.  Disbudding is the removal of horns before they attach to the skull but I wish it wasn’t done at all. At least the Swiss cows get a referendum to support their cause.

Popular with the children.

We went to see the dog judging. It’s a small dog show compared to a city show but it’s always fun to see the dogs. I find dog show people are a breed of their own too.

Golden Retrievers in the judging ring.
Bedlington Terrier. I had to look this up.
A group of dogs with their owners.

On the main arena, the Tasmanian Light Horse Society was giving a demonstration of riding and training exercises that the troops would have done. Of course, we stopped to watch this for a while and to look at the Draught Horses in their pens nearby. There was some show jumping too but I had not brought my long lens so I could not photograph that well.

A riding demonstration in WWI uniform.
Two of the horses in the riding demonstration.
Meeting the horses
Draught Horse
The Draught horses were popular with the crowds too.

We saw goats and poultry but missed the sheep who were penned in an area of deep shade. Good for the sheep as it was warm but not very interesting to photograph.

When I saw this guy I just thought of ZZ Top
Feeding goat.
This bird was a prize winner and I think she knew it.
Wyandotte, an American breed.
I am not sure if this is another Wyandotte. They come in different colours

There was wood chopping, which I forgot to photograph and wood carving with a chainsaw. There were carnival rides, sideshows, and Showbags.  There were vintage machinery and farm equipment, handicrafts and afternoon teas.

To finish off here are a few more photos. WordPress is not letting me do galleries today or it could be this computer because I can usually do them on the laptop. The computer is seven years old so I forgive it.

Working on a carving.
Chainsaw carving of a wombat.
A Seahorse carved with a chainsaw.
Another restored vehicle from the vintage machinery club.
Not sure what this if for but it makes a lot of noise.
The Laughing Clowns game.
Lucky tickets at the sideshows.
A carnival worker
Lethal Weapon Ride
Energy Storm ride
I think the recorded voice in these things is the same one I remember from my teens.

 

Snapshot Sunday: The Old Church

This old church was the former Sacred Heart Catholic church at Ranelagh. When I took my original pictures of it I was making a series of photos of local churches, especially the wooden ones because many of them were falling into disuse. The day I took this one the weather was really threatening and I liked the effect very much.

Eventually a brand new church was built next to this one to replace it and the old church at Franklin. This little building sat empty for a while but one day I went by on the bus and it was gone. I believe that someone bought it and had it transported to another location but that is all I know.

I’ve had fun trying different effects with the photo for various blogging challenges and today I did the last one in Adobe Photo Elements 2018 just for fun.

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Barns or Any Dilapidated Buildings

Dilapidated or Picturesque?

As an area that once had many more farms and orchards than it does now the Huon Valley has its share of abandoned sheds in various states of disrepair. As photo subjects I rather like them.

Not the worst I’ve seen but this old shed could at least use a new roof.
There are plenty of old timber sheds around the Huon Valley. This one definitely has a lean.
Dilapidated shed, Channel Highway near Cygnet. Spotted from the car while out for a drive. Not sure what is keeping it up.

And finally my own dear departed rustic shed, demolished a couple of years ago to make way for the pergola.