Picture of the Day: Bushfire Recovery of Steavenson Falls

Picture Via Marysville Tourism.

One of my favorite areas to visit in Australia was the picturesque town of Marysville, Victoria that was devastated in 2009 by the worst bushfire in Australian history.  The above picture is of the town’s iconic waterfall Steavenson Falls that looks much different compared to before the bushfire.  However, it is great to see that the bushland around the waterfall is recovering.  It is pretty impressive how quickly the Australian bush is able to regenerate itself after these large bushfires.

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Christine Nixon is Australia’s Equivalent of Mayor Ray Nagin

Last year’s “Black Saturday” bushfires in Australia were the near equivalent to the Aussies as Hurricane Katrina was to the US.  And just like with New Orleans’ Ray Nagin, the Black Saturday fires were made worse by governmental incompetence:

CHRISTINE Nixon was hired as our police chief not because she was a great leader.  She was hired first of all because of her politics – and with the added advantage of her gender – and on Black Saturday it showed. Showed disastrously.

As she was hired, so she failed, in an emblematic indictment of these Days of Seeming, not Doing.

To be brutally honest, she seems to have panicked. When this burning state needed saving through action, not group hugs, she realised she was useless. Unneeded.

And so she fled, first to her office, where she hid for 90 minutes doing unrelated paperwork, and then, minutes after being warned many people would die, to a restaurant.

“I had to eat!” she’s protested.

So as Kinglake burned, she went to dinner. And by the time she pushed away her plate, Marysville was in ashes, too, and most of Black Saturday’s 173 victims were dead.. [Andrew Bolt]

You can read more about this police chief’s incompetence at the link, but the bushfires destroyed a number of communities I am very familiar with since I lived near these small towns.  It just amazes me that while the citizens of these small towns were being burned alive the state’s police chief decided to go out to eat with friends and call it a day afterwards.  As incompetent as Mayor Nagin was when Hurricane Katrina hit at least he didn’t just call it a day and go home, which makes Nixon’s incompetence that much worse.

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Nation Mourns 209 People Killed By Bushfires

It was a national day of mourning this Sunday to remember the victims of Victoria deadly 2009 bushfires:

VICTORIAN communities devastated by bushfires will rebuild and Australia will never forget the dead, a memorial service for the Victoria fires victims, in Melbourne has been told.

Bells sounded across Victoria to open the ceremony, and dignitaries laid flowers at a wreath to honor the 209 people who died in Australia’s worst natural disaster.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said people had experienced unspeakable suffering in the fires and vowed that every year on February 7 Australian flags would fly at half mast.

“In recent days we have witnessed unspeakable suffering. We have lost mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. We have lost brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, the tiniest of children, family and friends and neighbours,” Mr Rudd said.

“All these are precious lives. No words can provide solace for grief so personal. But simply know this. You who suffer are not alone.  [News.com]

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Whittlesea Residents Mourn Bushfire Victims

Residents of the town of Whittlesea located just outside of Melbourne and adjacent to both Mt. Disappointment and Kinglake National Park that were both locations of some of Victoria’s biggest bushfires, remember the victims of those fires this Sunday:


Australians mourning the lives lost in horrific wildfires last week sought comfort at churches Sunday even as firefighters continued to battle a dozen blazes still burning in the state.

Fire engines raced past the small, 140-year-old Christ Church in Whittlesea while the Archbishop of Melbourne was leading a service, their sirens briefly drowning out a song.

More than 180 people were killed and 1,800 homes destroyed when some 400 blazes — some thought to have been deliberately set — tore across Victoria state on Feb. 7 in Australia‘s worst-ever wildfire disaster.

Across the 1,500-square mile (3,900-square kilometer) fire zone, residents and friends gathered at church services to pray for the dead. The scene was repeated at churches across the country.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attended a service in the town of Wandong, where he joined residents in placing leaves and flowers into a bowl of water in a symbol of remembrance and rebuilding.

In Whittlesea, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the state capital of Melbourne, Governor General Quentin Bryce joined about 200 people who overflowed into Christ Church’s yard for an hourlong service.

“You could feel the togetherness there,” Bryce said. “It will give people support and comfort in their grief.”  [Associated Press]

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Truth of Koala “Sam” Picture Revealed

UPDATE: I think this view sums up the Koala “Sam” incident perfectly:

She is referring to sceptics (journos?) like Prue Vincent who clarified in The Smage that the video was “actually taken in the week leading up to the deadliest bushfires in Australian history, during preventative backburning operations”.

No-one’s claiming Sam wasn’t in a bushfire-affected area, just that it wasn’t one associated with Black Saturday, which is the conclusion an onlooker would draw from most of the reporting on the Koala quench.

McNaught herself wrote about Sam on 11 February: “Sam became the most famous koala in the world when firefighter David Tree stopped to give him a drink amid the devastation of the Victoria fires.”

In fact, the photo was taken on 1 February, six days before the Victoria-wide fires broke out (the fires most people would associate with the term “Victoria fires”). It doesn’t make the Koala any less cute or any less thirsty. And who’s to say that symbolism can’t sometimes transcend accuracy when it serves a higher cause, like highlighting the plight of animals caught in bushfires.

But it is a reminder that even in times of tragedy we should continue to question the story behind the story.  [Crikey]

________________________________________

ORIGINAL: I like many people found the picture of a firefighter giving water to a koala in the middle of a bushfire to be just incredible; well it turns out it was too incredible:

It’s been revealed that video footage of a Victorian firefighter giving water to an injured and dehydrated koala was not quite what it seemed.

“Koala Man” Dave Tree made news across the globe with footage of a koala drinking from a bottle. The footage, shot on a mobile phone became a sensation on the website YouTube.com.

However the appealing scene was actually taken in the week leading up to the fires, during preventative backburning operations.

Dave says there was no intention to deceive. He took the video to show his daughter.

The koala “Sam” has come to symbolis the plight of native animals left homeless after the massive fires burnt thousands of hectares of bush.  [TV NZ]

Here is the original YouTube of the encounter with the koala:

I still find it to be just incredible footage even if it happened a few days before the big bushfires.

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Mitchellshire Family Feels Vindicated with Fire Prevention Strategy

Here is one lesson learned from the deadly Victorian bushfires that hopefully local governments take heed of:

THEY were labelled law breakers, fined $50,000 and left emotionally and financially drained.

But seven years after the Sheahans bulldozed trees to make a fire break — an act that got them dragged before a magistrate and penalised — they feel vindicated. Their house is one of the few in Reedy Creek still standing.

The Sheahans’ 2004 court battle with the Mitchell Shire Council for illegally clearing trees to guard against fire, as well as their decision to stay at home and battle the weekend blaze, encapsulate two of the biggest issues arising from the bushfire tragedy.

Do Victoria’s native vegetation management policies need a major overhaul? And should families risk injury or death by staying home to fight the fire rather than fleeing?

Anger at government policies stopping residents from cutting down trees and clearing scrub to protect their properties is already apparent. “We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut trees down,” Warwick Spooner told Nillumbik Mayor Bo Bendtsen at a meeting on Tuesday night.

Although Liam Sheahan’s 2002 decision to disregard planning laws and bulldoze 250 trees on his hilltop property hurt his family financially and emotionally, he believes it helped save them and their home on the weekend.

“The house is safe because we did all that,” he said as he pointed out his kitchen window to the clear ground where tall gum trees once cast a shadow on his house.

“We have got proof right here. We are the only house standing in a two-kilometre area.”  [The Age]

This seems like a common sense thing to do when living out in the bush, but when dealing with Greenies common sense means nothing.  So it will be interesting to see if these tragic bushfires will finally change fire prevention attitudes in Australia or not.

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Victorian Bushfire Death Toll Rises to 181, US to Send Firefighters Down Under

The death toll continues to rise from the Victorian bushfires with still around 80 people missing:

Bushfires spread towards Healesville

FIREFIGHTERS described by the Prime Minister as a legion of heroes are battling on as the death toll grew to 181.

Up to 80 people were missing as fires loomed over towns in northeast Victoria.

Firefighters worked tirelessly yesterday to make the most of the cool weather before warmer weather returns at the weekend.

The battle wore on as police started assembling a 100-strong team of detectives to hunt the arsonists as part of Taskforce Phoenix.

Fires to be investigated will include Churchill, Marysville, Wandong and Beechworth.  [Herald-Sun]

Here is the most current map of the fires from Parks Victoria:

I was hoping he would do this but US President Barrack Obama is sending American firefighters to help battle the bushfires as well:

US President Barack Obama has phoned Kevin Rudd to offer his condolences over the bushfires and offer US help in fighting the blazes.

“The president offered his prayers to the people of Australia and his condolences to the victims,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

“The president asked if the US could provide assistance to the government and people of Australia to assist with the fire.”

The call came as a contingent of senior US fire personnel prepared to fly to Australia to help battle the killer bushfires.

About 35 American firefighting operation chiefs, aviation managers, planning section chiefs and specialists in land rehabilitation are waiting for final orders to help bolster the effort to control the blazes.

“Australia and New Zealand have been wonderful neighbours and provided help in our time of need and we are happy to return that help,” US National Interagency Fire Centre spokesman Don Smurthwaite told AAP.

Australia, New Zealand and US firefighting agencies have a close working relationship and have participated in exchange programs in recent years.  [Herald-Sun]

American firefighters have come to Australia before to help battle bushfires as well as Australians coming to America to fight forest fires there.  There has long been a great relationship in the firefighting community between the two countries and it is great to see our American firefighters preparing to head to Victoria to help our Aussie friends.

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Bob Brown Blames Bushfires On Global Warming

Australian Greens political party leader Bob Brown is the absolute scum of the Earth to me right now:

Greens leader Bob Brown says bushfires like the ones raging across Victoria and New South Wales this weekend will be more frequent if climate change continues…

“Global warming is predicted to make this sort of event happen 25 per cent, 50 per cent more,” he told Sky News.

“It’s a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change.”

It is incredible that this guy is using this tragedy to advance his own political agenda.  What does global warming have to do with arsonists setting fires?

Someone can also easily make the argument that the Greenies are responsible for the fire because they prevent grazing in the high country as well as well as back burning to reduce the amount of fuel for these fires to burn.  However, there is no evidence to say that would have made a difference just like Bob Brown has no evidence that people driving their SUV’s less would have prevented this fire.

It is totally inappropriate and shows what a demagogue and heartless person he is.

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Death Toll from Deadly Bushfires in Victoria Rises to 84

The toll from the bushfires sweeping across Victoria has now increased to 84 people:

UPDATE 10:07pm: THE death toll in Victoria’s worst ever bushfires has hit 84. TV veteran Brian Naylor has been confirmed dead.

At least 650 homes have been destroyed and 3733 people have registered with the Red Cross after evacuating their properties.

The number left homeless is expected to be far higher, the Red Cross says.

At 9pm the CFA said the state’s major bushfire information phone line – 1800 240 667 – has been swamped with calls.

Callers who get a busy signal are asked to be patient, hang up and try the number again.  [Herald-Sun]

It has since been confirmed that Brian Naylor and his wife were indeed killed in the fires and authorities expect to find more bodies:

It has just been confirmed Naylor and his wife, Moiree, have been killed after Victoria’s single deadliest bushfire, the Kinglake Complex, razed their property on Saturday.

In a statement, Naylor’s lawyer John Beckwith, of Beckwith Cleverdon Rees, confirmed the news late tonight.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed the death toll includes at least four children.

“The sad part for me is to say to the community that there will be more deaths, we believe,” Ms Nixon said at a 6pm press conference at Moe Police Station.

“We will find more bodies as we gain access to different parts of the fire areas, where at the moment we just havn’t been able to get in.

“So far we have found people in cars, it looks like they have decided late to leave their premises.

“We have found people who have been in properties, in their paddocks.

“We’ve found others in their houses.

“It covers the whole range. And the sad part is that we found children. That is devastating for us.”

Ms Nixon said she was sickened by the fact some of the fires may have been deliberately lit.   [Herald-Sun]

To make matters worse the CFA is saying that some of the fires they have put out are being restarted by arsonists!

So where are these fires still burning?  Here is the most up to date map from Parks Victoria:

The Herald-Sun also has a very good interactive map showing where the fires are still burning as well.

Marysville is destroyed after the bushfire.

One of these fires really hit home because the township of Marysville which is about an hour from my home in Australia has been wiped out:

Marysville, a former gold rush town that was home to about 800 people 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Melbourne, was almost completely wiped out.

“Marysville is no more,” Senior Constable Brian Cross told The Associated Press as he manned a checkpoint Sunday in nearby Healesville on a road leading into the town. No deaths were reported in Marysville, but police sealed it off because they feared bodies would be found there.

Television footage from Marysville showed a scene of utter devastation: house after house was a smoking ruin, with wooden beams in cinders, piles of blackened bricks and iron roofing sheets twisted in the heat. The police station, schoolhouse and pub were gutted. Burned-out cars littered the streets.  [Associated Press]

Marysville is one of the favorite places for my wife and I to visit on the weekends and have even contemplated retiring there one day.  However, that is no more as these beautiful little town has been wiped out.  To make this tragedy even more painful is that the town may have destroyed by a bushfire started by an arsonist.

Downtown Marysville before the bushfires.

The South Australian Premier has now gone on record saying that these arsonists should be classified as terrorists:

SOUTH Australian Premier Mike Rann has labelled arsonists “terrorists” as authorities vow to “throw the book” at anyone found responsible for the deadly bushfires that have devastated Australia.

The Victorian death toll had risen to 76 after emergency crews discovered scores of bodies at townships northwest of Melbourne, ravaged by fire.

Twenty-six fires were burning in Victoria taking lives and property, and another 53 were burning throughout NSW.

Victoria Police Deputy Chief Commissioner Kieran Walshe said it was believed some fires in his state had been deliberately lit, but would not say which ones.

“We have our suspicions in some instances but really we do need to get to the position where we can get our investigators and our forensic scientists into the fire scenes to do a full, thorough investigation, see what evidence can be uncovered which will confirm or deny for us how these fires have originated,” he said.

One of Mr Walshe’s colleagues said arsonists could be charged with murder or manslaughter depending on available evidence.  [AAP]

I agree, throw the book at these people and call them what they are, terrorists because the entire state is currently being terrorized by these bushfires.

Here are few TV news reports on the bushfires in Australia.

7 News Part 1:

7 News Part 2:

Sky News:

These bushfires are obviously tragic and here is what you can do to help those affected by these fires:

How you can help

To donate to the Red Cross State Government Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund:
* Visit
www.redcross.org.au
* Phone 1800 811 700
* Any NAB, ANZ, Westpac or Commonwealth Bank branch
* Any Bunnings store
* By direct deposit to the Victorian Bushfire Relief Fund – BSB 082-001, Account number 860-046-797
Myer Bushfire Appeal
* All proceeds to the Salvation Army. Donate at any Victorian Myer store.

Let us hope that plenty of people donate money to help everyone affected by these fires.  Likewise everyone pray for rain as coolor weather has already rolled in today.  If ever there was a time for a massive down pour in Victoria, now is the time because I am just so saddened to see my beloved Victoria go up in flames like this.

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Victoria Bushfires Kill Up to Possibly 40 People

Victoria this summer has gone from massive amounts of rain to now a scorching heat wave that has now become deadly as arsonists have been linked to starting some of the deadly bushfires across the state:

BREAKING NEWS AT least 14 people are dead and hundreds of houses destroyed by a wave of bushfires – some deliberately lit.

And the death toll is expected to climb much higher today, possibly into the 40s, as authorities begin to assess some of the most horrific blazes the state has even seen.

Victoria was last night in a state of emergency as 10 major bushfires raged.

All of the confirmed deaths were in rugged bushland, within 60km north east of Melbourne.

Anyone concerned about family or friends in fire areas should call the CFA on 1800 727 077.

Do you know more? Contact us at 9292 2963. Send your photos to pics@heraldsun.com.au

Deputy Commisioner Kieran Walshe last night confirmed six people had perished in fires at King Lake, four died at Wandong, three at Strathewen and one at Clonbinane.

He said the body count could extend into the 40s because rescue crews had only been able to get into the fringe areas of the worst hit towns.   [Herald-Sun]

Kinglake is just north of Melbourne and is populated with many homes.  Further north from there is Wandong, Mt. Disappointment, and Murrindindi are where more of these deadly fires are burning.

Bushfires burn outside Melbourne

To the West in Bendigo and Horsham other fires are burning that in Bendigo alone has claimed 50 homes.

Bushfire in Bendigo claims this mans home.

The Herald-Sun has a good run down on the property damage and deaths caused by the fires:

UPDATE 1.35am VICTORIA’S firefighting resources are stretched to the limit as more than 3000 firefighters try to save homes across the state.

Fighting the fires

Deaths:
Six in Kinglake
Four at Wandong
Three at Strathewen
One in Clonbinane

Police fear the toll may reach the 40s

Losses:
At least 100 houses

Fighting the fires
Fire fighters: 3,192 (552 DSE, 2500 CFA, 140 MFB)
Fire vehicles: 342 (142 DSE, 200 CFA)
Bulldozers: 23
Aircraft: 37

Weather:
State max 47.9 at Avalon
Melbourne max 46.4
winds up to 116km/h at Swan Hill

Fires:

KILMORE

Fourteen killed in Kinglake, Wandong, Strathewen and Clonbinane, northwest of Melbourne.

More than 60 houses reported to be lost

At least 30,000 hectares burnt out, started around 4km east of Kilmore and winds pushed it 30km to the east through Whittlesea, Wandong and into Kinglake. Was also threatening Broadford late Saturday night.

Communities under direct threat include Broadford, Broadford East in the area of O’Gradys Road, South of Broadford, Broadford-Wondong/Sunday Creek Road, Reedy Creek and Tyaak.

HORSHAM

At least three houses, the Horsham Golf Club, several sheds and a Dimboola Fire Brigade truck destroyed.

Fires at Remlaw burnt out more than 5,700 hectares with urgent threat messages issued for the communities of Haven, McKenzie Creek, Bungalally and Green Lake to the west of Horsham City.

Fire jumped the Western Highway and impacted Drung Drung in Horsham’s east.

Threat downgraded by 8pm.

CHURCHILL

Potential threat to Loy Yang power station and also to communities of Devon North, Yarram and Langsbrough on the Gippsland coast. Ripped through 600ha of pine forests in one hour.

BUNYIP

Broke containment lines overnight, forcing ground attack firefighters to retreat.

Residents evacuated from nursing homes, reports of house lost in Labertouche, ember attacks also on Garfield North, Tonimbuk, Robin Hood, Drouin West, Buln Buln, Tarago, Jindivick, Jindivick North, Longwarry, Longwarry North and Drouin.

At 7pm an urgent threat message was issued for the communities of Nilma, Darnum and Warragul because of ember attack and heavy smoke.

DARGO

Alpine fire in East Gippsland approximately 650ha in size. While not initially a direct threat to property, the communities of Bullumwaal, Mount Taylor, Clifton and Sarsfield were on alert.

COLERAINE

One man trying to move stock suffers burns to 50 per cent of his body.

Fire crossed the Princes Highway between Danedite Road and Johnstons Road, heading northeast towards Pomborneit North also threatening residents of Scollers Road, Carters Roads Settlement and Swan Marsh.

At 6pm fire was said to be contained. Fire burnt through 770 hectares.

REDESDALE

A grass fire that started 9km west of Redesdale, south of Lake Eppalock, is estimated to be over 10,000 hectares in size.

The fire has spread approximately 10km in a southeasterly direction to
Annex Lane south of Sidonia.

Residents of Baynton, Glenhope and in the vicinity of Franklins Road, Randalls Lane, Dead Dog Lane and Heathcote Spring Plains

Road may be impacted directly by this fire, which is now burning in a northeasterly direction.

Two hundred and thirty-five CFA and DSE personnel are fighting the fire, using 43 tankers and 3 bulldozers.

MURRINDINDI

The Murrindindi Mill fire in the Mount Despair State Forest burning in a northeasterly direction.

Communities of Taggerty, Acheron, Thornton, Rubicon, Snobs Creek, Eildon, Alexandra and Molesworth warned to remain on high alert.


YARRA GLEN

30ha fire threatens vineyards.

WANDONG

Grass & scrub fire burning 1km south of Wandong.

Estimated to cover over 1,000ha.

Communities of Wandong, Wallan, Wallan East, Eden Park and Whittlesea, Humevale, Bruces Creek, Upper Plenty, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek, Smiths Gully, Kinglake, Flowerdale, Glenburn and Hurstbridge under threat.

This map published on the Parks Victoria webpage gives a good indication of where these fires are burning:

The Park website also provides good updates on the status of the fires with many of them now considered controlled such as the one in Bendigo.  However, the fires in Horsham, Kilmore, Murrindindi, some to the East of Melbourne have not been controlled yet.

With so many fires happening at once, arson has been suspected.  It is currently unclear how many of these fires were started by arsonists but authorities have issued an alert looking for information on two suspected arson cases:

Victorian police are appealing for information from the public as they search for an arsonist believed responsible for the 6,500-hectare fire in the state’s east which has destroyed homes.

Police say they had been investigating deliberately lit fires in the Latrobe Valley and the surrounding Gippsland area before the Delburn Complex fire took hold late last week.

About six fires have broken out in the past 24 hours and while lightning is believed to be the cause of four of them, it is suspected an arsonist may be behind two.

Police are waiting for fire conditions to ease further before investigators can thoroughly inspect the area where the blaze is believed to have started.

Hopefully they can catch whoever is starting some of these fires because it is bad enough when mother nature starts fires, authories don’t need to be combating fires started by arsonists as well.

For more pictures of the fires the Herald-Sun has an on-line gallery up as well as The Age.

Let’s all pray that no more lives are lost or homes destroyed in these tragic fires.

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