Playing chicken with Armageddon….

26 01 2019

It all started over a week ago when a thunderstorm came through Geeveston. At the time it all seemed exciting, because I hadn’t seen a thunderstorm since leaving Queensland over three years ago; the problem is, unlike up north where such storms usually bring torrential rain, this one released 0.5mm of precipitation, and the lightning strikes started fires all over the place. Those closest to Geeveston were quickly put out, but four others way out in the forest on the other side of the Huon River past the Tahune tourist attraction became uncontrollable, recently joining up to form one big fire…….

Smoke started invading the Huon Valley, not particularly bad to begin with, but by last Tuesday my Iranian wwoofer who had had a lot of experience with very bad air quality in Teheran said we should leave when the particulates index hit 214….. He even introduced me to air quality websites where you can monitor these issues; I’d never even heard of them before because air quality is not something I normally concern myself in the pristine air of Southern Tasmania.

Where’s my pristine air gone…? And now the choppers are filling up with our water….

Little did we know, things were going to get worse, a lot worse…… by the time we left, the index had risen to over 460, and Geeveston had the worst air quality in the world……

Chloe, a French wwoofer who was here when Glenda arrived in November had returned for a quick look see at how the work she’d done had progressed. By the time we’d walked half way to the house site, my lungs hurt and I was puffing….. I escaped to Hobart and stayed with a friend. The next day, the index had risen to a staggering 800….. you can’t make this shit up, honestly, because later, Cygnet’s index went up to 1100! And it’s on the other side of the estuary! Don’t ask, I don’t know…..

Before returning to prepare for the obvious looming fire disaster which was all over the news, I spent $100 on a mask capable of filtering out P2 (2 microns) particles. I was amazed at how well it worked, it allowed me to work all day cutting grass and moving stuff all day long. It was hot and sweaty, but beat the hell out of sore lungs and life shortening exposure.

By then we were warned it would be safer to leave than stay behind to protect property. My shed’s built out of firewood, is on stilts – fortunately at the NE corner where the fire wasn’t coming from, but all the same ember attacks are what one has to worry about.

I set up and tested sprinklers to soak the area, and the pump near the power station was on for days at a time running 6 to 10 hours a day depending on the availability of sunlight. All the utes are parked up there too, near the dam where it’s most unlikely fire would reach.

Luckily, my neighbour Matt has many acres under apples which when irrigated don’t burn. His farm will be a good buffer in the event of all out Armageddon…..

After attending a community meeting packed to the rafters (they had to hold a second one because the hall was way too small) and being told that Friday was going to be hell on Earth with 35 degrees and 50 to 70 km/h winds and burning embers falling out of the sky, I decided discretion was the better part of valor, and packed little Suzie with all sorts of assorted stuff and left.

The weather was supposed to get angry from 5am, but nothing of the sort happened. So I drove back to Geeveston to do more preparation. The air was even way cleaner than that other awful day. I had a chat with Matt and decided to go back to Hobart. Next day, I went back again. We had 30 ducklings hatch just before all this happened, and if they were still alive I wasn’t going to let all that effort go to waste. I even moved about 10 lengths of 8×2 rafters I need to finish the house’s roof structure into the container; timber like that doesn’t come easily.

Some of the crap that was falling out of the sky….

As in war, it seems the first victim of bushfires is the truth…… the unbelievable array of conflicting information appearing on not just social media but even the ABC news was bewildering. This morning, we were told the fire had reached Costains Road, just half a km away, when in fact it was much farther away at Bennetts Road, with the ABC later publishing a retraction online…..

The red dot is where we live….

The best info I received was actually from my neighbour who decided to stay as long as possible, and is still there…… he even texted me a firey’s map (we call firefighters fireys here!) he photographed that showed just how close the fire actually was at 10am this very morning….. then the wind changed. Tassie’s fickle weather at it again. ALL the pollution, which went from zero to 600 and back again in a few hours disappeared when the SE wind took off. Unfortunately, it won’t last, the NW winds will be back Monday.

Matt’s just texted me the choppers are filling up from our dam…..!!

The latest news is that it’s safe to come home again, but to not be complacent.

Let me tell you, I’m sick of playing chicken with Armageddon…… and it’s not over ’til the Fat Lady sings. Tomorrow I’ll be back on deck to check my ducks are OK…… and now check the water level in the dam.

The real tragedy, however, is the potential damage, if not disappearance, of Tasmania’s unique and pristine ecosystems…… I can build a new shed, you can’t replace this stuff…