J.D. shared this story about the fires in Australia, and in a week where the consuming interest has been the corona virus, I thought it would be best to concentrate on another tragedy as people and firefighters in that country are dealing with lose of property, homes, friends and loved ones.
While I normally do not post nor review videos, the scenes in this video and the descriptions in the accompanying article and testimonies are chilling; one literally is surrounded by an apocalypse of fires. Additionally, J.D. pointed out in the accompanying email that one has to study to the firefighters' comments carefully. I'll be getting back to that in a moment, but first, the videos and the article:
Now, if you watched some of those videos, I suspect that you, like me, were stunned into a kind of horrified silence. For me it was particularly poignant; one of my good friends and housemates at Oxford was Australian, as are many of the regular contributors and members of this website. In fact, I watched some of the videos twice or even three times, the first time with sound, and then with the audio off. One thing struck me as I did so, and it may have struck many of you as well, and that was the speed at which these fires moved. One moment, people were having a normal day, the next moment they were surrounded and engulfed in an apocalypse of fast-moving fires, and then, the next moment, the fires were gone, along with houses and sentimental memories.
That brings me to a couple of remarks in the accompanying article that caught my eye. The first of these are these comments:
The ferocious fire front passed within minutes and daylight returned.
When Peter and his sons came out of the house, they saw widespread destruction of the farm and equipment.
Then there was this:
Eighty-kilometre-per-hour gusts sent flames roaring over the top of a river towards them.
And later in the article there is this observation from one of the firefighters:
“The speed and the ferocity of the fire … was three or four times what we’d seen before,” (firefighter) Simon said.
Granted, natural fires can and do move quickly, but when firefighters themselves are pointing out unusual speed and ferocity, it makes one wonder. Indeed, as I watched these videos, I was struck by the similarity to videos taken by fire victims in California. In one instance recorded in the accompanying article, the brakes on one firetruck failed because they had melted.
As they were heading out through the fires, they heard a frantic radio message from the another fire truck further back in the convoy.
“The truck is dead, the truck is dead.”
The brakes on the other truck had melted and the crew were stranded.
This odd statement recalls the strange pictures from the various California fires, of melted wheel rims and engine blocks in cars, while the rest of the vehicle, including its paint, were relatively unscathed.
But if this catalogue of strangeness isn't enough, there's another category of statements in the article that give me pause, statements such as this:
Madeleine described the experience as a turning point.
“This bushfire season has taught me that this might become our new reality,” she said.
She isn’t the only one concerned about the future.
East Gippsland teenager India also wonders what life will be like in years to come.
“Having to fight, and replant, and watch the land around us grow back, and then it all to be destroyed again by the fires?” she said.
Fires are a reality in Australia, as they are in California and elsewhere. But what strikes me as very odd is the expectation that they "might become our new reality," almost as if to say that one might have to pencil them in on one's schedule. It seems like a backhanded way of admitting that there was something highly unusual about the latest round in Australia, like there was with the latest round in California.
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