January has been a month of bush fires, here in Tasmania.
There are currently 3 major fires burning out of control, each caused by dry lightning strikes. All have threatened towns, communities, rural residents, national parks and tourist attractions. Thanks to round the clock efforts of the Tasmanian Fire Service, the volunteers of the State Emergency Service and fire fighters from mainland Australia and New Zealand, only a handful of properties have been lost to date. There are over 50 active bush fires on the TFS website alert page.
The fire at Gell River which started on 28th December, has burnt 27,958 hectares. Another in the Central Plateau, which started on 15th January has burnt 51,140 hectares and one in the South West National Park at Tahune/Riveaux, which started on 16th January, has burnt approximately 56,230 hectares.
To put into perspective, the total area burnt to date, is equivalent of 135,328 rugby pitches, or 135,328 four hundred metre tracks. Or 86% of the area within the M25 in England.
The fire front is currently 1,300 km long.
An evacuation centre is temporary home to hundreds of residents. Many others are staying with relatives or in hotels. Volunteers are providing support and practical help such as meals to the evacuees and fire fighters. Some residents are staying to defend their homes and livelihoods, to help create containment lines.
Even though the closest fire is over 50kms away, smoke has been drifting across Hobart on and off for weeks. Again, today there was a strong smell of smoke when I got up, visibility was low, smoke inside our homes and workplaces. At times we can taste the smoke.
Last week, the rising full moon, was dark red, brighter than any lunar eclipse. An unnerving glow of smoke in the darkness.
It’s very eerie and scary, the worst fire experience I’ve had since we’ve lived here.
The Tahune Airwalk has been devasted, although fortunately the visitor centre has been saved.
(Photos without my signature are from TFS or local news websites)
Praise and thanks to all emergency personal who are battling these fires.