I spent most of yesterday clicking between the Tasmanian Fire Service website pages in a slightly OCD manner – alerts-maps-alerts-maps-alerts. Ok. Maybe it was totally OCD, but it seemed like every time I switched pages, a new bushfire had started somewhere.
A big one got going across the river at Wattle Hill, not far from the ignition site for last year’s devastating bush fires, which flattened Dunalley and the surrounding landscape. It was also within sight of my family’s farm. I call and check on the progress of the fires – Mick is watching them from the farm, and they’re ready to run the sheep down into an empty nearby quarry if the fire looks like coming any closer. The local wildlife will hopefully do something similar, but after seeing last year’s post-bushfire carnage, it’s unlikely many of them will. I’m supposedly working, but having trouble focussing on anything more serious than email rearrangement and tea drinking.
I’m sealed inside an air-conditioned building in an office with no external windows, which normally drives me wild, but today, is actually a blessing of sorts. Early in the day, I went out and did some weed checks, and felt foolish for leaving the office without a hat. The sky outside the fourth floor tearoom window is a filthy orange, and the street plantings whip about in the hot, northerly winds.
There’s another fire in Cambridge now, on this side of the river. I call my partner to make sure he can grab the cat, chooks, and car-free neighbours, if need be. Alerts-maps-alerts. I catch the bus home.
Later, early in the evening, a fire starts near my house. It starts in an area of once controversial development – Tolmans Hill. Years ago, somehow, a group of people not short of cash somehow slipped past the skyline planning rules to build a suite of ostentatious houses at the top of this steep, heavily treed slope. It’s also a bit of potential death trap during bushfire conditions. There’s a fire there now, and it’s only a couple of kilometres as the crow flies from our own leafy street. The fire has moved from “Watch and Act” to “Emergency”. The house is sweltering, the cat, whingy, and the fire service have mobilised at least a dozen vehicles to the scene.
Outside, the clouds are a dirty fairy floss pink, and the wind still very warm. I water the garden and send texts to friends letting them know to watch the Tas Fire website. The fire at Wattle Hill has been downgraded from “Emergency” to “Watch and Act”. My partner goes for a drive to check on the fire progress, and comes back to report that both fires look quite spectacular, but this is probably just because it’s getting dark.
By eleven, the Tolmans Hill fire is being effectively maintained. We decide it’s safe to go to bed, and stretch out under the sheet, phones to hand, just in case.