Fire Season

Currently Reading: Trent Dalton – Boy Swallows Universe | Anna Burns Milkman

I have been in the van for almost three months now, working on the peach farm in Jerrawangala, which is located in the Shoalhaven region of the NSW South Coast.

Nectarine skin tear in the shape of a heart – perfect representation of how I feel about this fruit!

The fruit is grown, picked, packed and sold on the property – you can’t get much more local than that!

Polly’s first campsite (I’ve named her after Jackson Pollock, due to the lovely ash splat design she has been sporting all summer long)

Nectie heaven?

My first (and only) time in the cherry picker… the orchard is a sea of stunning green from up on high

The cows approve of their diet

The peaches have been delicious and I really enjoy working for the family who run the farm, but we have had a pretty hectic season this year, with bushfires burning through the area for weeks as they made their way around the country, followed more recently by rising waters as the drought finally broke in a big way. Last weekend the farm recorded 400mm of rain over three days. Despite these extreme weather events, the orchard has remained intact, and it’s been business as usual, with fantastic support from the local community. We are down now to perhaps three more days of selling left for the season.

Packed and ready for sale

Yum!

This is where I’ve been hanging out for the past couple of weeks of the season

As regards the fires, it used to be that one part of the country would flare up during summer and we would recall particularly bad years by a given name, like the Black Tuesday fires in Tassie from ’67, which left 62 people dead and several thousand without homes; or the Ash Wednesday fires of ’83, which resulted in 75 deaths in South Australia and Victoria; or the Black Saturday fires of ’09, which decimated the Kinglake and Marysville communities in Victoria, claiming 173 human lives and up to a million animal lives.

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Smoky and stormy sky over Frogs Hollow out of Milton

 

 

Smoke builds in the sky above the farm

Ominous sky above Sussex Inlet on New Year’s Eve

One moment they were refuelling helicopters on the highway, the next moment the fire was leaping the highway right in front of us

Swan Lake on fire, Swan Haven, Sussex Inlet

The Black Saturday fires prompted the introduction of an entirely new fire danger rating: ‘catastrophic’, eclipsing the ‘extreme’ rating that used to top the scale. The catastrophic warning was forecast for Sydney for the first time this bushfire season. Each of these disasters has been found to be the result of a combination of elements: heatwave, extended periods of drought, lightning strikes, arson, low humidity and gale-force winds, to name a few. In each case, the ferocity of the fire, and the toll on human and animal life has been unprecedented.

Fire retardant used at Jerrawangala

How the mighty have fallen on Forest Road

Forest Road – just one example of a burnt out desolate stretch

The Sussex Inlet Road:

This season, the fires cannot be allocated a name based on a specific region or day or date, as they have been burning for months, and have travelled the length and breadth of The Great Dividing Range, as well as large swathes of South and West Australia, and small pockets in Tasmania. Last summer, all of Tassie seemed to be on fire, which may afford some protection this fire season. The fires continue to burn out of control in several parts of Australia, and are anticipated to continue for several weeks to come, as hot and dry conditions extend well into April in some parts of the country.

The turquoise colour is returning to the water. You can see here the extent of fire damage along the dunes behind Inyadda (Bendalong) Beach, and just how close the NY wave of fire came to the communities of Bendalong, Manyana and Cunjurong Point – those at Conjola, Mogo and Cobargo were not so lucky

Holiday makers are beginning to return to the area

At least 34 lives have been lost so far this season, including those of 6 fire-fighters. Most of our firies are volunteers, who put themselves in the path of danger to protect lives and property, without pay. Massive fundraisers have been held to raise money for the under-resourced fire departments in each state, along with the Red Cross, Salvos, and countless other charitable organisations, as the long process of helping people rebuild lives, homes and communities in the wake of devastating losses gets underway.

Love your work

Heroes

Local heroes

WIRES (and equivalent wildlife rescue organisations in each state) are also raising money to assist with the rehabilitation of animals that have been injured and/or displaced due to fire, with the toll on creaturely life estimated to be over a billion (and into the billions if we include insects), with predicted potential mass species extinction. I’m making a point of keeping a record of each species I encounter in the wake of the fires.

New life in all its forms

Ulladulla

Greenwell Point

Woollamia

Sussex Inlet

So it is not all doom and gloom. With the rains have come our first glimpses of the recovery to come. While some communities have weathered destructive waves of both fire and flood, there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the moisture that is once again permeating the air.

There might not be community consensus about the handling of the situation by our politicians (at local, state or federal level), but with the exception of those directly impacted by flood, no-one is complaining about the rain.

Some of the burnt trees are taking on a metallic silver sheen which is striking in the rain

Epicormic buds

Resilience

And so we begin again – these pictures were taken on the Sussex Inlet Road, near the intersecting powerlines and alongside Tullarwalla Creek

Atlas of Living Australia

I love that you can already distinguish between the different species

New life is sprouting everywhere

Look what a little bit of rain can do

I’ve been working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, but have managed to fit in a short hike most weeks. Now that the peach season’s almost over, I’ll have more opportunity to update the blog more regularly. Details about the walks I’ve done to come!

Books Completed: Margaret Atwood – The Testaments | Sally Rooney – Normal People | Kristin Newman – While You Were Breeding

7 thoughts on “Fire Season

    • Thanks Mum! I found myself with three days off this weekend so finally had the opportunity to update the blog. Hopefully I can be more regular with my posts going forward! 👍

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  1. Wonderful to see your posting once again. The photos and videos seem to capture the range of events that have made the news here in the US–smoke, fire, & flood; destruction & rebirth, horror & beauty. Can’t wait to see what you and Polly will be up to next.

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    • Thanks so much Wes! Still haven’t brought the Nikon out of its bag (!) but we’ll likely sell out of fruit today so I’ll have a little more time for my creative pursuits soon. I hope you and Marian are both doing well!

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  2. Hi Lou. I’ve been hanging out for a blog post from you to see how things have been going. Very interesting to read a personal account of how devastating the fires were – and still are. It somehow makes it more real and tragic. It’s going to be a hard year for a lot of Aussies (people ones and critter ones).
    I much prefer Polly as a name – and I think she does too! You too keep having amazing adventures and keep each other safe!

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    • Thanks Luke! Great to hear from you. Thanks for checking in. ☺️ The fires were pretty hectic. We had three close calls on the farm, but others fared much worse. It was good to spend the summer down the coast nevertheless. Polly’s doing well – she likes life on the road and is looking forward to setting out in earnest for the big lap come early March. Hope all is well with you and the fam! Cheers, Lou

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  3. Hi Lou. I’ve been hanging out for a blog post from you to see how things have been going. Very interesting to read a personal account of how devastating the fires were – and still are. It somehow makes it more real and tragic. It’s going to be a hard year for a lot of Aussies (people ones and critter ones).
    I much prefer Polly as a name – and I think she does too! You too keep having amazing adventures and keep each other safe!

    Like

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