Australia’s bushfire hell and the destruction of a home

Australia’s bushfire hell and the destruction of a home

15 May 2013

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Australia — Australia it seems has a third certainty apart from the old adage of taxes and death, and this is that every summer the nation experiences bush fires and inevitably homes are destroyed, burnt to the ground.

Those volunteer bush fire personnel and those whose homes are in the face of such bush fires have a common experience, that of the sound of a bush fire rushing towards them with high winds. Even a 747 or a freight train has nothing on this frightening sound.

Major fire storms that result in severe loss of life are often named based on the day on which they occur, such as Ash Wednesday and Black Sunday. Some of the most intense, extensive and deadly bushfires commonly occur during droughts and heat waves, such as the 2009 Southern Australia heat wave, which precipitated the conditions during the 2009 Black Saturday busfires in which 173 people lost their lives. (

Common causes of bushfires include lightning, arching from overhead power lines, arson, accidental ignition from agricultural clearing, grinding and welding, campfires, cigarettes and dropped matches, machinery and controlled burn escapes.

In 2009, a standardised Fire Danger Rating (FDR) was adopted by all Australian states. During the fire season the Bureau of Meteorology provides fire weather forecasts and by considering the predicted weather including temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and dryness of vegetation, fire agencies determine the appropriate Fire Danger Rating. In 2010, following a national review of the bush fire danger ratings, new trigger points for each rating were introduced for grassland areas in most jurisdictions.

The rating are:
Catastrophic / Code Red
Very High
Low to moderate

Bushfires have accounted for over 800 deaths in Australia since 1851 and although bushfires can occur at any time of year, the most likely months are between November and March. Controlled burns have become a fundamental ingredient to bush fire protection. It’s been interesting that bush fires in North Queensland tends to be a November event, much earlier than elsewhere across the nation, mainly due to winter and spring undergrowth in the light of their warmer “cooler months”.


We have all witnessed on television newscasts the aftermath of houses devastated by bushfires. Moreover the all too common bewilderment of a bush fire destroying house after house and somehow leaving other houses untouched. Entire communities are sometimes sent into despair, in 2009 Marysville in Victoria was one such town. Utter destruction was the scene. Authorities needed to put up road blocks to counter the sight see-er phenomena. (

The real question associated with bushfires is – what is a home? When a house is destroyed by bush fire what has been lost to the dwellers, the residents, the home owners. The Bush Fire Chaplains have years of experience as to what is lost: (

A living home

Cherished memories

Family treasures such as photographs

A place where the family return


The sounds of footsteps

Comforting awareness of rooms

The homeliness of the clothes line

Making a cuppa

A favourite lounge chair

Decisions as to the future

Most of these things are intangible. The loss of the soothing and comforting experience of making a cuppa early in the morning, looking out through the kitchen window, is something that dollars and cents cannot fathom. The never ending daily walk to the washing line, when taken away, becomes an emotional insurmountable loss. Family heir looms and precious family photographs have untold sacred value.

Yet, in spite of all this, for many, it has been a means to a fresh start, and a realisation that our possessions have only a little consequence compared to the welfare of our precious loved ones. Life itself is such a gift from the Lord, that the joy of hugging someone of whom we love who escaped from such a fate, is beyond words. Nonetheless, it may take years to bring adjustment to such emotional loss of a home.

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