Those of you following me on twitter would yesterday have seen my prayer alerts in regards to the fire situation. It was quite an eventful day.
Yesterday smashed temperature records across the state of Victoria. It was 44 ºC (111.2ºF) in most of Victoria, more in many parts of it. There was also a lot of dry hot wind and minimal rain in sight. Everything was quite dry as we are in the middle of a drought. Fires are a big risk in Australia because many towns are surrounded closely by bush (forest) which often burns very rapidly and the weather just made it so much worse. Authorities had warned this was going to be on of the highest risk days ever for fires. They weren't wrong!
We came out our back door to see a massive plume of smoke filling the sky. We sent off some of the family members to check how close it was while some of us stayed behind listing to the radio for updates and making basic evacuation preparations. We discovered that while our home was safe, our office in another part of town was at risk (it ended up not being damaged). We then had to sit at home for the rest of the afternoon, watching and smelling the smoke and listening to the radio as the fire was announced to have been burning in or at risk of spreading to yet another part of town where friends lives.So far we know of one family we are friends with loosing their house. Nether they or their pets were there at the time so they are safe but were unable to rescue anything. We've also heard stories of several near misses- in one case a friend having the houses both sides of them and behind them burn to the ground, and others that were at such a high risk that they had emergency services personnel knocking on their doors. One person was killed by the fires and at least 50 houses were burned down in my town alone. A lot of these were in poorer areas where many people won't be insured or have the resources to start again. I'm still trying to work out the truth of rumors of significant damage to schools and sporting venues.
My town wasn't the only one experiencing serious fire problems. Major fires were experienced all around the state. In some places it was so bad that most of the buildings in a number of small towns were completely destroyed. There has been 173 known deaths around the state and many hundreds of houses lost with authorities suspecting that the actual number of deaths and lost homes will be higher. There has also been a lot of cases of people getting badly burned. The electrical infrastructure around the state has been quite damaged so we are loosing power every couple of hours. The fires continue to burn in a number of parts of the state.
Please pray for those that have lost their loved ones and homes and for the healing of the injured. Please pray for the firefighters and other emergency response staff whose role is often difficult, extremely tiring and traumatic. Please also pray that the remaining fires would be able to be put out quickly and not cause any further damage.
Further news on the fires
UPDATE: It is now reported that there have been 173 confirmed deaths with more people missing, suspected dead.The fires continue to burn in many places putting more towns at serious risk.