I’m struggling to focus today as much of my home state of Victoria is either smouldering or still in flames. Places I have lived, visited, holidayed, gone four-wheel driving, cycled and camped are devastated, damaged or remain under siege.
More than 170 people are dead. Entire towns have been razed. It might be close to 1000 homes destroyed by the time the counting is done. Countless families have been traumatised. Schools, churches, police stations, post offices and small businesses are gone.
I’ve had a few close calls with fire in my lifetime and it scares me silly. My best mate lost his home on Ash Wednesday, 1983. Yesterday he described some of the memories that will never leave him: the rumbling roar of the firefront charging toward him, the high-pitched scream of eucalyptus oils sizzling and popping, the desperation to flee while his family was intact, the policeman tearing into their driveway and yelling at them to “get out of here”, the frantic journey with burning branches and even a flaming hay shed being blown into their path.
Today’s newspapers tell me a former colleague has lost his home (and nearly his life). Other friends have been within a wind gust of losing theirs. I’m worried about several others.
I spent two years at Braemar College, Mt Macedon, where many of the students lost their homes on Ash Wednesday. Most families recover from losing homes and property, horrible as it is. I don’t believe families ever recover from losing loved ones. There are a lot of people out there who need our prayers and practical support right now.