A while ago I had a play with my embellisher and various materials, trying to create an image of a fire. I was reminded of it today while following the harrowing news reports of deaths from so many fires burning throughout the southern states, particularly Victoria. I was six months pregnant with my first child in 1983, and living in Queenscliff in Victoria when the Ash Wednesday bushfires went through the State. I was one of many army wives left alone while our husbands were away somewhere – I remember lying awake at 2 o’clock in the morning, following the news reports as the fires worked their way relentlessly east. They were stopped well before reaching us – not that we knew that would happen. In 2003, the dreadful Canberra fires burned. I was hanging out washing and turned around to see an evil, great billowing cloud of dirty grey suffused with an ominious orange – it was over 400 houses burning on the other side of the city from me. Four people died. We were in shock that this could happen in the heart of the nation’s capital. My brother phoned from Queensland that night – he heard on the news that over 400 houses had burned and he thought there must be a mistake – that couldn’t possibly be right.
And now Victoria is suffering again – each hour the news reports increase the number dead – I was horrified when I woke up this morning to read that 14 people had died – the 5pm news has just reported the death toll at 49, and warning to expect it to rise as fire crews manage to get into townships that have been cut off.
After the Canberra fires, quilters all over Australia made quilts to donate to everyone who had lost their homes. I am sure that people everywhere will rally around to help those who have lost everything. Homes can be rebuilt, possessions replaced…but nothing can replace those 49 loved ones – Monday morning, and the toll has grown to nearly 100. Wednesday – 181.