Bushfires have shaped this country for millennia. And our human activities have shaped bushfires.
I am reminded of reading the history of the white settlement of South Gippsland - The Land of the Lyre Bird : a Story of Early Settlement in the Great Forest of South Gippsland(Korumburra and District Historical Society Inc. 2001 ed.). The firsthand recollections describe the huge efforts in the 1870s and '80s to clear the ancient bush to establish farms. There was plenty of rain; slogging through the mud was the norm. And then came the devastating bushfire of 1897/98 where the early community battled the fires that engulfed this regularly rain-soaked Korumburra district, W.H.C. Holmes recalled vividly that 'there was not an inch that was free from showers of sparks driven by the wind from the blazing trees alight from root to topmast branch. ...it was almost dark at 4 o'clock; through the black pall of smoke the fire appeared a livid blue, giving everything a weird and unearthly appearance: the sun looked like a big copper ball through a red-black smoke haze. All night 18 of us battled ...and most of the workers were at last unable to see; some were totally blind.'
This is again the picture we are seeing all over Australia this summer. Very sadly our communities are in great danger, at the moment especially those of our Member Societies of Benalla, East Gippsland, Jamieson, Lakes Entrance, Mansfield, Mid-Gippsland, Sale & District, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga.
Our thoughts and support go out to all our regional Member Societies and their communities.
Please support the Victorian Bushfire Disaster Appeal. Money is needed for daily living items for displaced people, for feeding and sheltering volunteers and animals.
Picture: Gippsland, Sunday night, Feb 20th, 1898, John Longstaff, NGV.