Bushfires, the scourge of summer, are devastating Australia’s east coast. Stories coming out of the fire zones are harrowing and when it comes the time it will behove all Aussies to dig deep for our countrymen who right now are losing everything.
The fires are blazing out of control down from Queensland to NSW where the Greater Sydney region is facing a risk level of Catastrophic. Firefighters are said to be battling over 100 fires and Victoria’s Country Fire Authority has sent more than 300 reinforcements to help. They will be bringing with them much-needed and essential equipment.
Meanwhile, Tasmania Fire Service has dispatched 27 firefighters to NSW along with 25 volunteers. These were deployed to the Northern Tablelands and the Clarence Valley regions.
So far, three people are reported to have died in fires raging at Kangawalla near Glenn Innes, one of whom, a 69-year-old woman, was killed while trying to save her home. As at the time of writing, another seven people are unaccounted for. 150 homes have been lost but it’s unknown whether infrastructure such as bridges etc has been destroyed in the blazes. It is also uncertain how many community buildings such as schools have been affected by the fires. Naturally, all these figures will adjust grimly
Those hurt battling the blaze include 20 firefighters who were treated by doctors and paramedics. A state of emergency has been declared in NSW for the Greater Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra/Shoalhaven regions.
Red Cross shelters are said to be struggling with the more than 1,300 who have been forced from their homes to take shelter.
However, the tragedy is not limited to people, over 350 koala bears have been incinerated in the fires. So far 16 of our cherished national critters have been rescued and taken to be treated at shelters by wildlife workers. The tragedy has left the koala population in a precarious condition.
Untold stories will come of this devastation, some brave and heroic, some heart-warming, but most of them tragic. One such story concerns a volunteer firefighter. Jesse Kirkman was busy battling the blaze engulfing his Northern NSW township of Wytaliba. The fire had already claimed the lives of two of the town’s older residents as Jesse fought a 12-hour shift to try and save the homes and property of his neighbours. Tragically, as he selflessly battled the fires, his own home was burned to the ground leaving his family now without shelter.
In Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Ipswich, three million people have been warned to stay indoors as the bushfire smoke has created an “unprecedented” health hazard. Hospitals are already reporting an influx of people suffering from respiratory issues.
Much of that smoke is also passing over NSW and can be detected in the city suburbs.
Over 300 schools and nursing homes across greater Sydney will close on Tuesday given the threat levels. Conditions will worsen as temperatures are set to soar to 37C in Sydney with winds gusting up to 60kmh.
In effect, Sydney may be caught in a ring of fire, with surrounding bushland putting at risk the Hawkesbury region, Hornsby, Penrith, Camden and Sutherland suburbs.
At times like this, we put politics aside and concentrate on the tragedy, as politics cannot extinguish fires. This is not a sentiment shared by the Left, with Greens’ leader Richard Di Natale and Melbourne MP Adam Bandt taking the opportunity to bait the government over its climate policy blaming climate change for the bushfires.
This drew a fiery rebuke from Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack who slammed them as “raving inner-city lunatics”. Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce meanwhile blamed Green policies as having hampered efforts at hazard reduction which has led to an excess of fuel for bushfires.
An angry Joyce told The Australian, “The problems we have got have been created by the Greens. We haven’t had the capacity to easily access (hazard) reduction burns because of all of the paperwork that is part of green policy.
“We don’t have access to dams because they have been decommissioned on national parks because of green policy. We have trees that have fallen over vehicles and block roads, so people cannot either get access to fight a fire or to get away from fires. And we can’t over the trees because of Greens policy.
“So many of the practicalities of fighting a fire and managing it has been stymied by the Greens.
“A lot of people are talking once more about indigenous land management because they didn’t have to go through 1001 reports that they have to go through today.”
Mr Joyce’s sentiments were shared by a volunteer firefighter who blamed “Muppet” environmentalists for the bushfires that have taken life and property.
Tyson Smith expressed his feelings on Facebook in a post shared over 4,500 times. In it, he wrote, “These authorities that put a stop to reduction burns need to be held personally accountable for the losses people have endured.
“People have lost their lives as a direct result of the decisions made by the environmental authorities.
“Please tell me why these ‘enviros’ shouldn’t be stood up in front of a judge and charged with manslaughter?
“How many more homes? How many more acres of destroyed forest and bushland? How many lives? Mow much more do we need to endure until you Muppets realise you fucked up?”
But it’s not just the Left who’ve ‘fucked-up’ — Scott Morrison is being accused of ‘fobbing off’ a former chief firefighter and 22 other emergency services chiefs who penned a letter months ago with a dire warning of the bushfires.
Greg Mullins, who served as NSW Fire & Rescue commissioner from 2003 to 2016 says he and almost two dozen other significant persons sent Morrison the letter in April suggesting an urgent meeting to discuss “increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events.”
Three months went by without any meeting, and then he was to meet with energy minister Angus Taylor, who is about as useful as a damp sock. Outraged, the concerned parties never met.
Now, with a confluence of all the above mitigating factors, three people are confirmed dead. They are 63-year-old dairy cattle farmer Julie Fletcher, who died in her home near Taree. Vivian Chaplain, 69, who died near Glen Innes. And George Nole, whose age is unknown. His body was found in a burnt-out car at Wytaliba.
NAB hopes when the time comes everybody either gives generously or does whatever practical to assist their fellow Aussies in a time of need. Loss is a terrible, terrible thing, especially when it is one’s own home. Most of these people will have the added burden of having to start all over again from scratch.