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    Posted January 15, 2013 by
    JArvela
    Location
    Switzerland
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Wildfires blazing near you

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    Record Bush Fires in Australia

     
    Six of the twenty hottest days on record have been in January 2013.

    This heat wave resulted in a fire late August 2012 in the Northern Territory, and continued to include all eight states and territories of Australia by January 2013. There are still over 170 fires burning throughout the state of New South Wales (N.S.W), thirty of them uncontained.

    Thousands evacuated, several people hospitalised, homes, livestock, wildlife and at least one Firefighter have been lost to the fires so far.

    The government issued ‘Fire Danger Rating’ is based on predicted conditions such as the temperature, humidity, wind, and dryness of the landscape. The warning has been at the highest possible rating of Catastrophic.

    Rural Fire Service (R.F.S) Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers spoke to National television on the Monday 14 concerning a bushfire west of Coonabarabran,

    "The smoke plume of that fire extended some 14km into the air…embers were being blown ahead of the fire and starting a new fire some 5km ahead. It became very apparent early in the piece that there was just absolutely no stopping that fire ..."

    Elaina De Smuszko’s family home in the south costal village of Cudmirrah came close to a fire burning at Deans Gap in New South Wales. As the fire broke containment lines on Tuesday 8, the De Smuszko family prepared their house for the oncoming blaze.

    “Utilising anything that would hold water, an old bath tub, a canoe, wetsuit buckets, anything that we could store water in. My father and brother cleared out and then stuffed the gutters with old fabric and put a sprinkler on the roof. Leaves were raked up in the yard, personal documents and food got packed, as well as putting together a travel cage and necessities for our pet bird Henry.”

    “The smoke started to get thick after lunch so we were preparing for the worst, my mum and I went down to watch the eerie glow over Swan Lake as the fire was on the other side of it…”

    “We were ready to evacuate having survived the 2001 south coast fires, so we knew how deadly the situation could become. My family and I had our safety plan in place to go to the beach, which is the furthest point if the fire was threatening the village. There is one road into the villages of Cudmirrah Berrara and the evacuation points in previous years have proved to be difficult to get to.”

    “The fire came about 12kms (7.5 miles) from our home… the fire was burning 3kms (1.9 miles) an hour and the winds were about 70kms (43.5 miles) an hour. My parents home is separated from bush land by one street and with the lack of rain of late…if the winds stayed in the NW direction it could have been threatening.”

    “We did not experience power outages although half the town did, we were lucky.”

    “My parents are still there, I had trouble travelling back to Wollongong due to road closures from smoke and fallen debris. Even days after some fires had not been contained, the Deans Gap fire in Wandandian was still burning over 8000 hectares.”

    The N.S.W R.F.S, in cooperation with the Australian Government had fire warnings issued via automatic text message. The message contained the Fire Rating Warning for the next day concerning the areas of Shoalhaven and Southern Rangers. Offering the advice, ‘Not being in a bush fire prone area is the safest option.’

    Elaina explained where she received her information about the current fire situation. “Our information was gained through the local AM radio station 2ST, the RFS website, Facebook and local and national news…The RFS was wonderful in updating social media sites with updates of the fire status and reminders of fire safety plans.”

    The overall response by the Australian Government has been positive, with lessons learnt from past fire devastation.

    Elaina De Smuszko adds, “The Australian Government needs to have more recourses to combat this problem, one fire fighting chopper ‘Elvis’, is clearly not enough, other helicopters have proved to be insufficient due to wind factors and the evaporation of water flying to and from water resource to the fire at hand.”

    Deepest Thanks goes to all the volunteers and Fire Fighters within the Rural Fire Service. Putting their lives on the line to save others in such conditions is an incredible effort and selfless service.



    More information on protection from fire can be found in the 'Bush Fire Survival Plan' PDF available to download for free from any RFS government website.

    Photos thanks to Australian Broadcasting Corporation News online and social media outlets.

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