A Remarkable Escape

I was totally transfixed today by these dramatic photos of five young children sheltering with their grandparents under a jetty in Tasmania as a bushfire burned the trees along the shore.

I have no experience of such fires, but I can imagine that they can scorch the faces of people standing hundreds of feet away. If I had been there, I would have been worried that the wooden jetty would have caught fire as well.

Dunalley fire

But apart from the sheer human drama, there’s much more to be found in these pictures. I used Google maps to find Dunalley, and it was on the south coast of Tasmania. And I found the jetty with the left turn at the end on the north side of Blackman bay, just east of Dunalley. It’s amazing to be able to do this.

dunalley-jettyAnd using the scale on the map I estimated its length as about 130 feet. And assuming 10-15 feet between the piers along the jetty, they’re standing about 100 feet from the shore. Perhaps they could go no further because it was too deep. But they’re clearly feeling the heat, turning their faces away from the fire. Yet neither their hair nor their clothes have been scorched.

The dog seems to be not too bothered, and disinclined to join them in the water.

And while all three girls seem quite calm and collected, particularly the one with sunglasses, both the boys seem rather distressed.

But the coolest head of all is the one you can’t see: the grandfather who’s taking these snaps. I mean, you really have to have a very cool head to take photos on an occasion like that. And get everyone to face the camera while you’re doing so. I’d guess that the grandfather is an old soldier, and he’d been through fire and brimstone many times. And also taking photos is good psychology: it tells the children that, although they may be very frightened, he is not.

It raises the question of what they’re doing there. Couldn’t they have sheltered anywhere else? There seems to have been a lot of open ground nearby. Or was it that this was a designated place to head for in the event of a forest fire? Perhaps the old soldier had figured it all out years before, mapping out lines of retreat. He even knew what to take with him: a mobile phone with a camera, and a large bottle of Mango juice. They carried it in a couple of black bags.

The fire raged for 3 hours, according to the grandfather, speaking on video. They could only breathe the air just above the water.

And where were Mum and Dad? At a funeral, apparently.

The children’s mother, Bonnie Walker, told the network she had left the children with their grandparents to attend a funeral.

At around 3:30 p.m., she got word that her parents had been evacuated as fires raced across their town.

“So I braced myself to lose my children and my parents,” she told the network.

The fires eventually destroyed 90 homes in Dunalley.

As far as I can judge, there can’t be very much more than 90 homes in Dunalley. Pretty much the whole town must’ve burned down.

No deaths have been reported, but around 100 people were unaccounted for in Dunalley.

All of this particular family survived. I hope the dog survived too.

The other noteworthy thing is that, while many professional mainstream media outlets are carrying the photos, the photographer is an amateur, and it’s another example of how we’re all becoming reporters. And who knows, maybe the photos were first posted on Facebook or somewhere. Or they could easily have been. We now have our own news networks as well. About the only thing that the mainstream media can do better is to get the story to many more people much more quickly.

Who defines what’s “news”? There’s all sorts of things that I’m not interested in, and don’t want to know. Most sport, for example. Most celebrity gossip. Anything put out by healthist zealots. Most local news, except my street and town.

I’m beginning to wonder if, in another few years, we’ll all have our own tailored news profile of stuff we’re interested in, and when we turn on the “news”, we’ll be updated on stuff we’re interested in, with maybe something else thrown in for luck. Like “By the way, World War 3 broke out this morning.” And it won’t come via the mainstream media, which will have almost completely vanished. It’ll be news that’s propagating across the internet from grandads taking photos.

Anyway of course a Guardian commenter was quick to link Dunalley to global warming:

Harrowing images. Yet another stark reminder of the realities facing a warming planet.

Others agreed. By now somebody else has probably blamed a smoker for starting the bushfire in the first place.


About Frank Davis

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21 Responses to A Remarkable Escape

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    Guess the Crocks werent hungry.

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    Others agreed. By now somebody else has probably blamed a smoker for starting the bushfire in the first place.

    MM, Maybe not Frank we can quickly point the finger to the Greens policies

    “We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut …
    Feb 11, 2009 – Residents couldn’t get permits to cut down brush and trees, the result was … encapsulate two of the biggest issues arising from the bushfire tragedy. … The council’s planning laws allow trees to be cleared only when … If you read today’s Australian they (green’s) also banned controlled fire clearing in 2007.

    The quote from the homeowner that is the title of this entry really does say it all. Here’s the story from The Sydney Morning Herald.

    Fined for illegal clearing, family now feel vindicated
    Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
    February 12, 2009 – 12:03AM

    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, Victoria, 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.”

    • Rose says:

      Thanks for that Harley, I wondered why they’d let the eucalyptus get so close to the houses when I was watching the news.

      As for the Greens, anyone can have a really stupid idea, but we rely on wiser minds in authority to counsel against it , not enshrine it in law.

      It’s not just Australia

      After 1991 fire, Oaklanders debate growth of Eucalyptus

      When Eucalyptus catch fire, said John Swanson, assistant fire chief for the East Bay Regional Parks District Fire Department, they can go through a process called “crowning out” in which a 100-foot tree can burst into flames within two to ten seconds. The tree can produce flames as tall as its height, so 100-foot trees are capable of creating 100-foot flames. “It’s like a major torch exploding—like a huge Roman candle going off,” Swanson said. “There’s a definite roaring noise and you get the sight of it and feel this strong wind that can just pull your hat right off your head.”

      During the 1991 fire, the inland dry-hot Diablo Winds stirred up burning embers of leaf and bark on the ground—“like throwing matches out of your car window driving down the road,” Swanson said. According to Swanson, Eucalyptus are coated in a flammable and fragrant oil that collects at high concentrations at the base and junctions of the trees. So from the forest floor, the flames quickly spread to the trees’ stems, and eventually crowned out at the top of tree. Exploding embers were carried westward by winds that gusted up to 65 miles per hour, spreading the fire further. Many of the fiery particles then landed on wood shake roofs, setting hundreds of homes ablaze.”

      “Of the many eucalyptus species that evolved with fire, none is more incendiary than blue gum. “Gasoline trees,” firefighters call them. Fire doesn’t kill blue gums.

      Rather, they depend on fire to open their seedpods and clear out the competition. And they promote fire with their prolific combustible oil, copious litter, and long shreds of hanging bark designed to carry flames to the crowns. Blue gum eucalyptus doesn’t just burn, it explodes, sending firebrands and seeds shooting hundreds of feet in all directions. Living next to one of these trees is like living next to a fireworks factory staffed by chain-smokers.”

      • Rose says:

        It might not have had anything to do with green policies after all.

        Tas fire authorities defend preparation
        January 09, 2013

        “TASMANIAN fire authorities have defended the amount of backburning done around the worst hit bushfire town of Dunalley.

        Deputy Chief Officer of the Tasmania Fire Service Gavin Freeman has rejected a suggestion less fuel reduction than normal had occurred in the area.

        “I don’t believe there has been less done,” Mr Freeman told reporters in Hobart.

        “You can always look back with the benefit of hindsight and say, ‘yes we can do more, perhaps’.

        “Until we get these fires under control and are able to look back and do a proper analysis … we don’t really know whether fuel reduction burning would have been of benefit or not.”

        Around 90 properties were razed in and around the small fishing town in a blaze that started at Forcett southeast of Hobart and burned 23,000 hectares.

        Emergency services minister David O’Byrne said 80 per cent of the land affected in the state had been private, and landholders shared a responsibility with government to ensure fire breaks were adequate.”

      • Frank Davis says:

        a fireworks factory staffed by chain-smokers.

        A rather arresting image.

        And the sort of place I’d quite like to work in.

  3. wobbler2012 says:

    That is typical of a Guardian commenter, most of us know that it’s total BS but they cling to the lie as it gives them some kind of comfort, whatever that may be.

  4. Tom says:

    “Harrowing images” “Stark reminder”

    Yes, harrowing images and stark reminder of God punishing Australia for its vindictive treatment of smokers – more likely the case what some Guardian commentator should take note of.

  5. c777 says:

    I read the Guardian article and yes their are many warmists comments trying to score cheap points, well it is the soon to be bankrupt Guardian and the readers are brainwashed lefties.
    Warmists fall into three categories.
    The troughers.
    The wacko Gaia believers.
    The gullible suckers who fall for the fear angle.

    • Tom says:

      I read an article yesterday that in downtown San Francisco, at Al Gore’s CurrentTV international world headquarters, they finally made the announcement to employees that the network was being sold to Al Jeezera (sp?) network, owned by an Arabian billionaire whose wealth comes from petroleum, something the greens despise – yet all the employees were astonished to hear this was official now, that they will probably be losing their jobs and that when Al Gore sold himself out, making him a hypocrite (and not for the first time), he hadn’t even the guts to show up at downtown San Francisco headquarters to make the announcement himself, but remained in hiding. So if Guardian and other leftist rags are busy rehashing and supporting the greenist and health-fascist propagandas, indeed they may soon go the same way as Al Gore, selling out to save those at the top and everyone else in their organizations will be left to sink, nobody left to prop up the nonsense.

      • Frank Davis says:

        he hadn’t even the guts to show up at downtown San Francisco headquarters to make the announcement himself

        I’m not in the least bit surprised. He hasn’t the guts to debate his global warming critics either.

        Such people seem to always want to speak from a pulpit, and for everyone else to listen and shut up. Owning a TV station is just the sort of thing he’d do.

        I watched Al Jazeera online quite a lot last year during the Libyan civil war. It’s staffed with lots of recycled BBC newsmen, as far as I can see.

    • garyk30 says:

      “The gullible suckers who fall for the fear angle.”

      Causing and highlighting fear is the nannies big weapon.

      Presenting the worst possible data is their stock in trade,

      Consider lung cancer and Doll’s doctor study:

      The study shows that smokers in general get lung cancer at the rate of 2.49/1,000 per year and heavy smokers at the rate of 4.17/1,000.

      Since never-smokers’ rate is 0.17/1,000, the antis could say that smokers are either 15 or 25 times as likely to die from lung cancer as never-smokers.

      The 25 times is the claim that the media gets and there are zero qualifiers made.
      The same holds true for COPD at 9 times and 24 times.

      There iis no comparison made of the chances of not dying from either lung cancer or COPD.

      But, a heavy smoker has 99.6% of a never-smokers chance of not dying from lung cancer and 99.7% of their chance of not dying from COPD.

      A never-smoker is only 4/1,000ths more likely to not die from lung cancer and only 2/1,000ths more likely to not die from COPD, than a heavy smoker.

      A person is hundreds of times more likely to not get lung cancer/COPD than they are to get those diseases; but, the data for what happens to the vast majority of people is never presented.

      i doubt that is accidental!!!

  6. garyk30 says:

    Imagine the media statement like this:

    The Daily News(either print or tv)
    Thursday the 10th of January, 2013

    ASH has released a statement that claims that smokers are about 25 times as likely as never-smokers to die from lung cancer or COPD.

    In the interests of objectivity, our reporters have researched the matter and found that this claim is true; but, it is also true that smokers and never-smokers are equally likely to not die from lung cancer/COPD in any given year.

    This strange duality is caused by the fact that there are few deaths from these diseases per year and the vast majority of people do not die from them in any given year.

    The 25 times is a measure of the about 1/2th of 1 percent that die and the equality is about the 99.5% that do not die from these diseases.

    It is the editorial opinion of this media outlet that the statement about the 99.5% that do not die has the most importance.

    The Daily News
    10 Jan 2013

    • garyk30 says:

      “The 25 times is a measure of the about 1/2th of 1 percent that die and the equality is about the 99.5% that do not die from these diseases.”

      That is reality.
      Doll’s study showed a total lung cancer death rate of about 5/1,000 per year.

      That is 0.5/100; or, 1/2th(.5) of 1%.

      Many of the most fanatical antis are ex-smokers.

      As a heavy smoker, my chances of not dying from lung cancer this year are the same as an ex-smoker.

      This holds true for all of the duseases claimed to be ’caused’ by smoking.

      The antis, of whatever background, have nothing to be pious and elitist about!!

  7. garyk30 says:

    Here is more news you will never see.
    A 16 year old California student was killed today by gunfire at a school; so, this could be real.

    A 16 year old Calif. student was killed in school by gunfire today.

    The other 54,999,999 students in this country were not injured.

    It is the opinion of this media outlet that; while the death of one student is tragic, we should not forget the 54,999,999 that were not harmed.

  8. garyk30 says:

    “It is the opinion of this media outlet that; while the death of one student is tragic, we should not forget the 54,999,999 that were not harmed.”

    I suppose that should read:

    It is the opinion of this media outlet that; while the death of a student from gunfire is tragic, we should not forget the 54,999,999 that were not harmed.

  9. Radical Rodent says:

    Getting back to the original discussion: I, too, saw the photos as broadcast on the TV. My first thoughts were along the lines of “Wow! Dramatic!” and, “Lucky escape,” to “Well, they had plenty of time to get the camera, and take the photos.” I also noticed that the dog did not seem too bothered. I am not trying to belittle them for what must have been a frightening experience, but I also saw the pictures of the aftermath – there seemed to be very little damage, let alone the expected devastation.

    I am also aware that some habitats require fire to maintain them, but wasn’t too sure if Australian eucalyptus forest was one of them. Which begs the questions: is this just part of a natural cycle, with humans caught up in it? If so, are the locals aware of the potential risks involved? And: was it made worse by human interference in the cycle by controlling conditions to restrict fire for longer than normal?

    Finally, a question for the Greenies: why is it so reprehensible to clear vegetation to create a fire break to protect lives, yet quite alright to clear vegetation to erect a wind turbine (about 4 acres round the base of every bird-mincer), and to create the roads linking them all together?

    • margo says:

      I don’t think greenies are particularly in favour of roads or of clearing vegetation – or, necessarily, of wind turbines in the wrong places, any more than anyone else is. But we’re stuck with some things (such as mouths to feed and people to sustain). It’s a matter of choosing the least harmful option.

      • Radical Rodent says:

        So why choose wind-turbines? They are probably one of the most destructive, non-returning “investments” EVER!

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