An unseasonal, but not entirely unexpected wildfire hit close to home yesterday. Hot, gusting winds, high temperatures, very low humidity and a high fuel load in pristine forest which had not seen flame for decades conspired to create potentially catastrophic bushfire conditions.
At least a hundred homes have been lost north of here in the Lithgow/Bilpin/Mt Victoria triangle – an area I know well from my wanderings through the state forests and the bottom end of the Wollemi National Park.
Further north on the NSW Central coast there have been more homes lost and one fatality. Gutsy 63-year-old Walter Linder was winning the battle alone to save his Lake Munmorah home against raging flames when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
In my area I have seen the devastation first-hand – 8000 hectares of beautiful dry sclerophyll evergreen forest destroyed. Stock, pets, native birds, mammals and reptiles succumbed to the flames, radiant heat and smoke. Aluminium road signs melted completely. A young family standing in the back yard of their Yanderra home, surveying the remains of their shed, their car and a boat and trailer in disbelief. It could have been so much worse.
Despite the devastation and the danger to human habitation and populations of native wildlife, the Australian bush is highly adapted to seasonal fires. The heat triggers some native plants to germinate, the thick understorey is burnt away, allowing new growth to see the dappled sunlight in the eucalypt forests. Bushfires are a terrible and humbling sight to behold, but they are part of the cycle of life in this land. Those of us who choose to live in the bush must adapt our ways and be ever mindful of the threat. You can’t expect to stand in the way of such a force of nature and not be burnt.
Sunday and Monday will bring more high temperatures and gusty winds so we shall see what happens.
Here are a couple of shots I happened to snap today during my travels.