Kinglake Bushfire Update 1/4 (Driving in)

To: "'Birding Aus'" <>
Subject: Kinglake Bushfire Update 1/4 (Driving in)
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2009 00:08:59 +1100
A long posting today, split over four emails. There is some birding
related-stuff in here somewhere. In the fourth email, I think.


On Saturday Ruth and I got out to the site of my sister's house in St
Andrews. Getting out to the area is still tightly restricted. Residents of
the area have all been issued with coloured bracelets (the sort they use in
hospitals) - with different colours representing different areas. You also
need to show a licence or other evidence of an address in the area. Since
the Kinglake fire area is no longer a crime scene, the restrictions are
mostly in place to prevent looting, but also to prevent the queue of
"bushfire sightseers" trying to get into the area. There are stories of
reporters from various publications (including well-respected ones) offering
$500 per coloured bracelet. One person I spoke to said that he came across
some people without bracelets, one of whom was taking photos and the other
was making notes in a notepad. He asked if they were friends or relatives of
the property owners and they replied, "No, we're with the Sydney Morning


A quick word on sightseers. I have worried about whether we are simply
bushfire sightseers too - it is the last thing that I would want to do or
be. I feel that whilst we didn't live in the area, my sister certainly did
and we have  spent much time at their house, in the township of St Andrews
and also in the greater Kinglake area. We have many wonderful memories of
our times there, and for our ability to support my sister and family, we
consider it important to be able to see first-hand what they have been
through and what they have to deal with. In all of this we have made sure
that we never get in the way of emergency and essential services personnel
or their activites and that we treat the entire scene with the greatest
respect, after all so many people have died there. We did not encounter any
people that were simply trying to get into the area to have a look, although
there are many reports out Whittlesea that these people are there.


Once we got through the two checkpoints, the extent of the devastation
started to become apparent. All the hills and paddocks are charred. All
along the Hurstbridge-Kinglake Road, trees have come down, or been chopped
down and blackened logs are piled on the side of the road. Street signs are
blackened and unreadable - although a crew has apparently been through and
replaced some of the more critical ones. Every so often is a patch of
unburned area - not large, just a few tens of square metres. Along the road
every house on the left (west) side of the road was burnt out, except one -
a brick house. The ground right up to the house is blackened, but the house
itself had steel shutters - apparently those shutters saved the house. On
the right hand (eastern) side of the road more houses survived - maybe every
second house is gone. We saw along Mad Dog Creek Road a way, but could see
no evidence of standing buildings, although people told us that further
along the road many houses survived.


At one point a few hundred metres to the east of Mullers Road the
Hurstbridge-Kinglake Road turns sharply through 90 degrees, over a small
gully. Police tape is up between some trees there - a body had been found
there. Apparently a local that rode out on their motorcycle and for some
reason had dismounted and was taking photos of the fire (according to
witnesses). Unfortunately he perished. Further along the road is the
intersection with Olives Lane. This was the closest that my sister got to St
Andrews before being forced to turn back because of fire across the road. It
was quite sobering to see this point - all I could think of was how close my
sister and her daughter came to dying on that road on Saturday. Only a
degree of luck and the fact that she refused to give up allowed them to


We saw police on the side roads riding trail bikes. Apparently the only way
through on some of these roads at the moment. At various points along
Hurstbridge-Kinglake road crews were working - generally collecting the
cut-down trees and branches and feeding them into industrial-strength
mulching machines. At many locations on the side of the road were trees
still smoking. Fortunately even if they did flare up again, there is simply
nothing left to burn. There is one paddock about 100m from the road that is
unburned in the centre - this unburned area is full of mini-horses.
Apparently they lived a few kilometres from there and miraculously survived.
The person that owns this paddock has made what little is left available for
these horses. Back in the township of St Andrews is a stock feed supplier -
out the front are piles and piles of lucerne hay bales. One of the
government agencies (I can't remember which one) has paid a whole host of
these feed suppliers to make their stock available to anyone in the
fire-affected area free of charge. If you have stock of your own, or other
people's stock, or stock that has just roamed onto your land, you can just
go and collect bales of hay to feed them.


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