Victorian Bushfires update

To: "'Birding Aus'" <>
Subject: Victorian Bushfires update
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 2009 19:54:50 +1100
Hi again birding-aussers,


Skip to the bottom for specific birding-related comments if you don't want
to read the rest.


This afternoon I have been out as far as Hurstbridge mostly to check up on
my sister and her family. On Saturday my sister and her family were
preparing to go to a party at Eildon. Whilst getting ready, my sister heard
a loud roaring noise and when they went outside they could see flames on the
hilltop to the north east of their property. This was the first warning they
had of impending danger - no mention of danger to St Andrews in the media or
on the bushfire website. Quickly they decided that she and my niece would
evacuate and her partner and my nephew would stay to defend the house. As it
turns out neither situation was good. My sister was unable to get through to
St Andrews (the nearest town), so doubled-back towards Kinglake. Ultimately
she got through to a safe-house in Kinglake, but only after driving through
an active fire front - breaking all the rules, but unless she had she would
have died. Apparently the fire encircled the safe-house during the night,
but because it was in an potato farm and the bush around the house was
cleared, the fire fighters at the safe-house managed to save it.


My sister's partner and my nephew tried to save the house, but the pictures
you've probably seen on the news about the speed at which the fire was
moving ultimately beat them. He said that if they had another 20 men with
fire-fighting gear they may have saved the property. The only way they
survived was to by escaping to their dam and jumping in, covering their
heads with wet towels. Once again another no-no, but they said that had they
not done this they would certainly have perished.


Ruth and I met with many people in Hurstbridge, each with their own story to
tell. The overall feeling is one of incredible community spirit. I am sure
that many tales of incredible heroism and incredible tragedy will emerge
over the coming days and weeks.  I know that my sister in her own way helped
a number of people by forcing them to continue driving to safety. Her
partner also, after leaving their property went from house to house making
people leave and ensuring they got to St Andrews. He and my sister had no
contact with each other for hours because the mobile phone system was out. I
can't imagine what that must have been like. My sister was also trapped in
Kinglake overnight with active fires all around and all access roads cut.
Once again, I can't imagine what that must have been like.


For those birders that have asked, I have news on one well-known birding
family - Ken and Annie Rogers and their son Danny. The Rogers live at St
Andrews in Ninks Road. Unfortunately Ninks Road was devastated - 22 of 26
houses were destroyed, including theirs. Danny emailed me today in response
to an email I sent earlier. All his family have survived but they lost their
house and all possessions. I have no further details of their story, but I
know that he has spoken with some concerned birders today. At least one
person died in Ninks Road (I suspect more will be found).


I found out today that the township of St Andrews, including the famous pub
have been spared. The fire came within metres of the town at around 6pm last
night, but the cool change and accompanying wind direction change meant that
the fire turned around. Kinglake West however has been razed, I believe that
there are few if any structures remaining. Kinglake township has been burned
to one side of the main road - including the petrol station, Italian
restaurant and all houses on that side of town. Amazingly the other side of
the main road and the town is untouched. Most of the deaths in the fires are
in the Kinglake, Kinglake West and St Andrews area. Most of these are from
people that were trapped in their cars, so I consider myself incredibly
lucky that my sister is still alive.


I have no further information on the transfer of endangered species from
Healesville Sanctuary today, but all the information I have is that the road
remained open through the day so the transport should have got through. I
will call either the Sanctuary or the zoo tomorrow - I figured that they had
more pressing things to do than to speak with me today.


I also have no definite news on Yellingbo, but I believe that it has been
spared. I will find out more information tomorrow, hopefully. Yellingbo
would really have only been in danger had the Murrundindi fire complex
joined with the Bunyip fire complex. Whilst this has not happened, the fires
are still burning and are still threatening these areas.


I also have no definitive information on the damage to Bunyip State Park. I
suspect that we won't know that for some days yet.


I also am unsure of what actions are being undertaken for injured wildlife,
including birds. To be honest it is too early to even consider this,
unfortunately. The police and emergency services are not allowing people
into the fire zone until they have cleared the roads and checked each and
every burned-out house and burned-out car for casualties. I expect to be
able to get out there tomorrow, and I will try to get in contact with
wildlife carers then. Some bad news on this front - there was an injured
wildlife shelter on a property between St Andrews and Kinglake.
Unfortunately this property has been lost and all the wildlife that was
being cared for perished.


Paul Dodd

Docklands, Victoria









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