Some of my overseas readers have contacted me out of concern over reports of the (mainly) Victorian bushfires. I am nowhere near them, but as can be understood, we are all affected by the terrible loss of life and sheer destruction that has occurred. There are also fires in New South Wales.
Heat waves and bush fires are part of our landscape, in some areas exacerbated in recent times by the greenies refusal to allow fuel reduction burns. This is a procedure whereby large areas are burned on a regular basis by firebombing in winter. The procedure is to set a large number of fires in an area so that the fires do not get a chance to get big and really hot before they run into another one, thus not killing the forests.
We live a very dry continent and most of our trees are fire tolerant, but raging fires of this sort will kill them. Many of our species need fires for seeds to germinate.
Fires are often caused by lightning, we have a lot of dry 'heat storms' where there is a lot of electrical activity but no rain. Some are caused by carelessness with cigarettes and fires left smoldering, as well as burning rubbish by people with no idea of what they are doing, rating high on the list.
On this occasion though, arsonists seem to be the cause of most of them and there is now a strong call to have them charged with murder or manslaughter. Victoria though has pretty stiff penalties for this offence, up to 25 years for fires causing loss of life. This afternoon the death toll was 126 dead, now only hours later it is at 156, but that will rise when more burnt out buildings are cool enough to investigate.
Over 5,000 volunteer firemen from the rural fire service are out there and are being supplemented from interstate at the moment. These people deserve our highest praise and support. Government gives them some support and training, but most of the effort is community based.
The people of Victoria, and the families of the victims have our sympathy and support.