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Old 02-09-2009, 03:43 PM   #91
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Wow, it's really difficult for me to even fathom the rate at which this is spreading. My heart goes out to everyone affected and potentially affected. That's really scary just to try and wrap my mind around it.

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Old 02-09-2009, 03:45 PM   #92
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Bushfires in Victoria, Australia - The Big Picture -

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Old 02-09-2009, 04:54 PM   #93
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I think I first picked up the news on the radio Sat nite... I tend to listen to The News than watch it on TV most of the time. I did hear about the poor people perishing in their cars.

I immediately thought of of all of my Aussie friends & acquaintances here at Interland, couldn't remember who lived in Melbourne, and knew I couldn't catch up w you all until today.

Holy shit-- it is TERRIFYING!!! Just seeing that posted photo above and the Wiki map.

I continue to send prayers for strength to all grieving, the injured, fire-fighting, in the rescue/recovery & medical/trauma fields for what they are doing/enduring, and your country at large.

I think one of the only things fire-wise, and in this case deliberate that has some comparison is what i've heard about ( on "smaller" scale due to non-dry climate conditions, and lower winds ) is the kind of firestorms that occurred in ?Dresden, Germany during WW2 ?(fire)bombings where the fire feeds on it self, and starts to create it's own wind/ etc . I've heard it looked not that different from Hiroshima in many respects.

As for the arsonists.... a long time in the clinker with rehab.
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Old 02-09-2009, 07:20 PM   #94
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You can’t underestimate, under the right conditions, the speed and ferocity that these fires can move. Not only that, but the way they do it. Fire storm is a good term, but when it first hits, it’s also kind of like a bombing.

In 1994 very large and very dangerous fires hit some Sydney suburbs. For those that don’t know Sydney, we have some very large National Parks reaching right into the heart of our suburbs. My parents live with one of these over their back fence and a huge fire began in that National Park in the north of Sydney, at the same time as a huge one was destroying a few suburbs at the southern end of the city. The fire was a couple of kilometers away, and the wind was moving it north, away from us. We were as prepared as we could be and just settling into a cautious lunch with some firefighters and neighbours when the wind suddenly swung south and kicked up big time. We had, literally, about 5 minutes before the first fireball the size of a car landed just behind our back fence and a huge eucalyptus tree burst into flames like an explosion. Within a minute of that, we had a 60 foot wall of flame in our backyard and we were, to put it mildly, getting the fuck out of there.

As a 16yr old at the time, the day up until that point had been sort of fun – firefighters, cops, choppers, tv reports filed from your backyard, all sorts of excitement. When it turned though it was easily the single most absolutely terrifying experience of my life, and will likely stay that way for the rest of my life. People say it all the time, but a fire that size roars like you wouldn’t believe. There’s also loud cracking and hissing, the trunks of large trees can actually explode sending sharp, large shards of wood flying great distances, and then of course you know once its started hitting homes because then you start to get entirely different, large scale explosions. Mix that with sirens wailing, thick smoke disorientating enough to give you seconds to minutes of sheer panic, shouting, screaming, confusion, huge choppers thumping very low overhead and it must only be comparable to war.

Miraculously, our house was fine. The extreme heat warped and melted pretty much the whole back of it, much of it needing replacement, but we were amazingly lucky. 1/3 of the homes in our street burned down that day and homes several streets away were lost as well, by the same thing, a very hot, very fast wind can pick up a fireball and ‘throw’ it hundreds of metres away. It hits a tree, or a house, and boom. It’s up in flames in a second.
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Old 02-09-2009, 09:01 PM   #95
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Yikes! How scary.
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Old 02-09-2009, 09:04 PM   #96
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Wow, it's hard to comprehend how a fire can move that fast
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Old 02-09-2009, 09:05 PM   #97
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Oh holy shit, now there are fears the death toll could reach as high as 300, as the police are yet to enter some areas known to have fatalities. The official toll stands at 173 right now.

Though thankfully it looks like the threat to Healesville has been downgraded.
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:14 PM   #98
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don't know if this article might come off as a bit much right now given the loss of life and how close the fires are to some of our posters, but i thought it was too interesting not to post. it's from the Wall Street Journal:

Australia Fires Point to Risks of Shifting Population


The wildfires that have so far claimed more than 170 lives in Australia highlight vulnerabilities in a country where the population is spilling into rural areas already under stress from sometimes extreme weather conditions.

Police suspect arsonists played a role in starting the blazes in Australia, one of the worst natural disasters in the country's history.

Officials struggled to contain the flames, which obliterated at least two towns over the weekend and continued to burn Monday in grasslands and forests north of Melbourne, the capital of the southeastern state of Victoria.

Rural Australian communities like the ones north of Melbourne have had a steady influx of residents in recent years as former city dwellers have snapped up farmland to escape urban hassles without having to move too far.

Such newcomers are less familiar than longtime rural residents with precautions needed to prevent wildfires and are less prepared to escape when fires occur, Australian bushfire experts say.

Many rural areas in Australia may be more fire-prone than before -- a phenomenon some scientists attribute to climate change. Since 1950, Australia's temperatures have risen and rainfall has declined in population centers, including parts of western and southeastern Australia. The scorched area around Melbourne has suffered from drought for roughly a decade, leaving grass and trees there dry and making it easier for flames to spread.

Although Australia has always had wildfires, "climate change and drought are altering the nature, the ferocity and the duration of the bushfires," says Gary Morgan, chief executive of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, an organization that manages bushfire research efforts in Australia.

Abnormal conditions over the weekend are at least partly to blame for the fires. Temperatures soared to record highs, and humidity levels dropped to unusually low levels.

While the underlying weather patterns that led to the heat -- and some fires -- wasn't unusual, "it has never been that severe before," says Andrew Sullivan, a scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia's national science agency.

Some scientists and environmentalists discount links to climate change, noting Australia has always had extreme weather, especially in rural regions. And while many scientists say the number of wildfires has increased, data on such phenomena are incomplete.

The disaster is prompting environmentalists to step up calls for action. Australia is the biggest per-capita polluter in the developed world, primarily because it relies heavily on abundant reserves of low-cost coal for power plants.

When Prime Minister Kevin Rudd swept to power in November 2007, he had pledged to improve Australia's environmental credentials, setting a long-term target to reduce emissions by 60% from year-2000 levels by 2050. However, he has softened his stance in light of the world-wide economic slowdown and the costs such goals would entail.

Grisly details continued to emerge from the fires, with the latest death toll Tuesday morning in Australia at 173. Firefighters and forensics investigators blocked off many areas, including the town of Marysville, a village of 600 or so people that was almost totally incinerated over the weekend, leaving a dozen or more people dead.

Many bodies found in the region were burned beyond recognition. Some were near abandoned vehicles, as people were apparently trapped by flames as they tried to get away. Dead animals littered roads. The fires destroyed more than 750 houses and scorched more than 815,000 acres of land, according to news reports.

Weather conditions improved Monday, with cooler air, which may help slow the fires' spread. But thousands of firefighters were still battling 10 or more major blazes with expectations that the death toll would continue to rise as more bodies are found.

Survivors recounted tales of near-death experiences. Some hid in creek beds or dived into reservoirs to escape the flames.

Andrew Wallace, a 45-year-old property consultant with a vineyard near one of the affected areas, says he could see smoke from the fires early Saturday morning. Then, "this absolutely massive wind" swept across the area, he says, unsettling cows and sending kangaroos scampering across the paddocks. A fireman in the area advised him to get out quickly, which he did. "You could see the whole of the mountain was ablaze," he recalls.

Mr. Wallace's property was spared. But the flames destroyed many homes around his vineyard, leaving several people dead.
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Old 02-09-2009, 11:16 PM   #99
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Such newcomers are less familiar than longtime rural residents with precautions needed to prevent wildfires and are less prepared to escape when fires occur, Australian bushfire experts say.
Reading the story Earnie posted, I can definitely see where this could be a problem. For sure, I'd be careful to learn and follow any recommended landscaping and home outfitting procedures if I moved to a fire-prone area, but it would never occur to me that for instance I needed to look out for "fireballs the size of a car" unless someone made a point of warning me about them. I didn't realize how highly flammable eucalyptus trees are either. Then again, it sounds like at least in this case, plenty of 'old-timers' who knew exactly what to do and what to watch for weren't able to make it regardless.

What are the warning systems in place like, what do the authorities do to make sure as many people as possible receive warning right away when the fires start heading their way?
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Old 02-09-2009, 11:20 PM   #100
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Things are gonna change massively in Melbourne town, our metro keeps sprawling and sprawling (cause we're the best city), yet the threat of a repeat disaster (particularly with the increased likelihood of more 45 degree days in years to come due to global warming) is gonna make a lot of Victorians less likely to buy a home in far outer-metro areas (like your Healesvilles) and demand for homes and residencies in well-established suburbia is gonna increase....
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Old 02-10-2009, 12:50 AM   #101
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This is heartbreaking. My news channel is showing a segment right now. Fire is one of my greatest fears. It's really devastating. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected.
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Old 02-10-2009, 01:05 AM   #102
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This is one survivor's account.

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Old 02-10-2009, 01:23 AM   #103
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Old 02-10-2009, 01:47 AM   #104
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Where my parents are, the systems in place are excellent. Its been tested with three other fires since the 1994 ones I talked about above, and it works perfectly.

The community, in street by street groups, work really, really closely with local fire brigades and emergency services, both professional and volunteer, in year round in preparation. Training (how to prepare your home, how to fight a fire offensively and defensively), preparation (street wide plan of attack and of course plan for evacuation), massive sharing of information (which homes have swimming pools, who owns a chainsaw, where will any doctors that live in the street be etc) and training and supply of professional equipment (portable pumps, fire brigade hose fixtures, they’ve even handed out radios for communication and the proper overalls to every house – ultra bright orange if anyone is after a circa Popmart Adam Clayton getup for a party). If you were to drive down our street, you’d see little metallic signs attached to the footpath outside each house, each with some little graphics on them which indicate things like whether there’s a swimming pool here, whether the house has direct, flat access to the bush (many homes in our street have a cliff face right behind them), access to water mains on this property etc, and of course all men in the street take proper bush fire brigade training in fighting fires, offensively and defensively.

We had one that struck early on a New Years Day maybe 6 years ago. The worst day, everyone waking up more than a little foggy, but within half an hour the street was working like a slick military operation. Everyone knew exactly what to do. Where start on preparing their own home, and where to start with the street wide team organisation for fighting a firefront should it hit, and quickly and safely getting those that need to the hell out of there should it get to that. Luckily that one – which was pretty big – never came close to property, but the way everyone was able to snap to it was ultra impressive.

Unfortunately it took those 1994 fires I described above to get all of that sorted, and I suppose that’s sadly the case in many areas. A matter of recognizing the need, and having the right resources around you to get it together.

For real early warning though, I think our advantage is that we are in the heart of the suburbs. The media and the fire brigades have excellent knowledge of what is going on. That would not be the case for those in rural areas. And to be honest, when you have 80km/h+ winds on a 45 degree day pushing a 60-100 foot wall of flame towards you, there’s really not much anyone can do for you.
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Old 02-10-2009, 02:25 AM   #105
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It frustrates me thinking that we were all so unprepared.
I remember driving home on Saturday morning from the gym, my car broke down and the battery died. (Geez and I thought I had problems). I had to borrow my dads car to get home and I was listening to the radio. The radio got me all pumped up for NLOTH too with announcements on Gold FM and then they played "Still havnt found".
Back on topic though, I heard one of the head CFA (fire fighter) guys on the radio state that it was gonna be a tough day due to low humidity and high winds. I remember hearing that and my heart going out to the fire fighters, but it seems so surreal just how unprepared we all were.

I am extremely lucky as I live in inner suburbs of Melbourne, and you can't help but feel guilty. That evening, while it all unfolded, I was swimming in my pool... Doesnt seem real that it was so close by.

I work in an architectural firm who does a lot of regional Victorian designs and I imagine everyone having lost their homes and possessions, and I cant imagine what it would be like. I feel like I need to do something to help rebuild...

Yet here I am on interference, listening to NLOTH clips....

Just sad in this day and age that this shit happens, but like Earnie said you cant do much when the conditions are so so extreme.

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