Wednesday, 11 February 2009

After the fires...

Thanks to everyone for your prayers last Friday and Saturday. Unlike far too many people in Australia we came safely through the horrors of last weekend. I took this picture from the side of the road behind our place the day after everything was extinguished: it shows how the fire was lit at the top of the escarpment and then blew back towards the road and houses – yes, the police say it was deliberately lit, probably by local kids. Fortunately nobody was hurt here – my heart goes out to everyone in those communities where this wasn’t the case.

It was about half past three in the afternoon when first I smelled the smoke: Mrs Caliban was at work and Miss Nearly-Three at pre-school, while the littlest duck-nodle had just woken from his afternoon nap. This was what we could see from our back verandah; just after this picture was taken our neighbour suggested we start hosing everything down, and shared the “comforting” news that in the ’94 fires the house behind his was lost…

Ten minutes later everything was dark, the sun a blurred ball through the smoke. By this point the dogs were too frightened to complain any more at having been brought inside, and our eyes were starting to sting. Wrapped up against the burning embers falling from the sky, the little fellow and I were spraying water on the garden and roof to protect against spot fires.

Words can’t describe what it felt like to see the fire helicopter arrive. The noise was incredible, and in the dense smoke we could often only tell where it was from the sound. Nor can words convey how grateful we felt to the men and women risking their lives to fly under these conditions.

You can just make out the helicopter’s water bucket hanging down – the pilot was dropping beneath the escarpment to fill it from the river, then skipping back up to drop another load. The roar of steam each time it emptied was indescribable: the courage it must take to fly like that is breathtaking.

After picking the rest of the team up (who couldn’t believe how badly we reeked of smoke) we returned a few hours later to see the sky clearing and the helicopter leaving. What this picture doesn’t show are the hundreds of black leaves blown onto the grass during the fire, nor the little burnt circles where each one of them landed.

None of which matters in the slightest – that nobody was hurt is the only thing of any importance. What we experienced was absolutely nothing compared with the people in Victoria, and all our hearts and prayers go out to them. Hundreds – if not thousands- of people have lost everything except the clothes on their backs, many are in hospital, and most tragic of all is that the final death toll looks like exceeding 200. Thanks to everyone who was praying for us (knowing there was a community of people around the globe caring meant an incredible amount) but please don’t stop now! A whole lot of people need your prayers and thoughts far more than we did, and the community springing out of our beloved Mad Priest’s place might all be a lot of ne’er-do-well trouble-makers, but there’s no denying God hears each one of you! Thank you again.