Sunday, February 7, 2010

Black Saturday: First Anniversary

Day turned to hellish night – the firestorm at Steels Creek, seen out the kitchen window by the homeowner (Mr Cleaveley), at 6:11 pm 

Of your charity, pray for the souls of the 173 Victorians killed – 38 at Kinglake, 34 at Marysville, 27 at Strathewen, to say nothing of many other fatalities – in the Black Saturday bushfires of the 7th of February 2009, and pray also for those who survived, who continue to struggle to rebuild their lives and homes, mindful of their relatives, friends and neighbours who perished.

Pray also for the 62 who died during the 1967 Black Tuesday bushfires in southern Tasmania, whose anniversary also falls this day.  Having lived in Hobart for some years, I recall how all around the city the story was still told of "Here the fire came" – down the forested hills and gullies, to the university campus, to my old university college, to the homes of friends and to those of the dead...  

(Some stories from 1967: Jane, at home while the fire bore down, in a house backing on to a cliff above the beach below, thought, "I must save my children," and, paying out the neighbours' garden hose over the steep slope, snatched up all four of them at once and abseiled to safety like an opossum!  Many others nearby also found safety on the beach.  But one old couple, fearing the flames, fled their home and made for the beach down along a creek – alas! they were unable to outrun the bushfire and were burnt to death in the open, while by cruel contrast their house was left untouched – on whose souls the Lord have mercy.)

Pray that the ongoing Royal Commission into last year's tragedy will fearlessly report the truth about that day, uncovering mistakes and failings, forcefully pointing out what must be done if deaths are to be avoided in the future.  Pray that lessons learnt at such a price will not be neglected.

Unfortunately, the typical twenty-year gap between particularly savage, deadly bushfires feeds a culture of complacency that gradually grows up after each disaster recedes in memory...

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