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Dec 10, 2019, 07:53 AM
What could possibly go wrong?
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A million acres of fire...


I hear that the bushfires in New South Wales now are at a point where several of the worst of them have combined into one gigantic "mega fire", of around 400,000 hectares, which is near as nothing to a *million* acres... that's not one large area that has some fire in it, that's a million acres that is burning. That's a serious conflagration. 680 homes destroyed, in NSW alone, this season so far. Even more shocking, 6 people dead already from it. What more is there to say about that?
I heard about the fires in California this year, they were especially bad. As you can imagine, we understand and sympathise about this type of fire. We've seen the devastation and known what it can mean to people, to families and communities. It's very difficult coming back from something like that, maybe hard than just going through it the first time.
So that million acres is the worst of the fires in ONE state. Last I heard recently there were large fires, many out of control, burning in FIVE states, and we've only got 6 plus a couple of territories (admittedly the Northern Territory is very big, bigger than some of our actual states). I live in Western Australia, the biggest state, and it IS a biggie. Right now big fires are raging in W.A. but not to the extent that they are in NSW or elsewhere, but there's nothing to stop them reaching that scale. It's happened before near here because Perth, where I live, is built on the edge of a forested area and the outskirts region we call "the hills" is very vulnerable each year to fire. There have been 3 milder summers in a row coupled with decent rain, which allowed everything to grow furiously, and that's left a huge fuel load lying on the ground. The fire services have been back-burning wherever possible to try and reduce this fuel load, create fire-breaks and generally reduce the risk of fire reaching populated areas, but there's only so much you can do.
As part of my work I sometimes go on the road with bands performing in country towns. Last time I did this, some years ago, we went north-east and passed a big fire. We started passing it, and kept going, still passing it, for what seemed like forever, and it went on for many miles. And that fire didn't even make the news! A big one can have flame fronts stretching for tens of kilometres. Now I'm reading that the area burned so far in NSW and Queensland for this fire season is 2.9 million hectares or about 7.17 million acres... that's 11, 200 square miles, so far this season alone, in two states, and there are similar crises in Victoria, South Australia and parts of WA. That's a lot of fire. It's hard to get your head around... how many trees do you think that might be? How many animals died... heck, how many SPECIES were lost this year? How much ash went into the air, how much CO2... it's just totally beyond human comprehension.
If you haven't seen a fire of this type first hand then you can't understand its shear ferocity, either. The way a tree goes up when the flame front hits, fed by raging gales of burning hot air, the whole tree goes at once. It's not a tree with flames dancing along its silhouette, the entire thing is utterly consumed in moments, like it's in a blast furnace with a high power wind machine blasting it. And that's every tree in the forest, all at once. You can't get anywhere near the entire area. I can't describe it, if you haven't seen it then there's no real way to appreciate the power involved.
And yet, there are PEOPLE out in it, facing those fires. Driving fire trucks down roads between swathes of burning forest, flames all around, the very sky orange with the glow of the fire and the ash in the air. They die in it, too... just try and appreciate for a moment, what it must be like to know that your last moments are upon you, among that level of burning. You must go beyond fear into inevitability, *knowing*, not fearing, that death is here. Maybe they can even be calm for a moment, I honestly hope so. And you know, these firefighters out in the little towns are *volunteers*, going out there on their own initiative trying to save life and property, UNPAID... I can only tip my figurative hat to them. Incredible. That's bravery.

The human cost is just appalling, it makes you cry. One moment I remember from the last and most terrible round of fires, about 10 years ago... one guy walking around the remains of his property, the house utterly gone, all the ground burned, everything lost. He looked like a war refugee, with that vacant, unbelieving, 100-yard stare, what else can you do? And then right at that moment, what happens but his little Jack Russell terrier dog re-appears, who'd been hiding in some forgotten little nook or cranny, some hole by the creek on his farm, and was able to survive. The little dog also looking lost, beyond shocked and into numbness. His owner lost everything but the little dog made it, and he burst out crying with relief that the dog made it. Yeah, I would too. I doubt I could have stopped it if I tried.
Sorry, I'm getting carried away here and I know it. What I wanted to include was those chopper and water bomber pilots, they're also heroes. I can't imagine the danger of this compared to regular flying. Even taking away the fire, the hazards in flying they have to cope with, at low altitudes in difficult, sometimes not-properly mapped regions, and with tall trees and possibly power lines there to trip them up. Now, add to this the smoke, haze, ashes and sparks, and the swirling vortices of air from the rising heat crashing into the fire-fed wind, and even fire tornadoes and fire-storms... that's a wild place to try and fly. And we desperately need them to do it! They are the best, and sometimes only, chance to do anything about containing it. I heard they don't try to extinguish the fires, just contain them, they're just too big and powerful to fight and put out, so they make fire-breaks and safe patches and let it just burn out within. All that forest, some of it centuries old, and they have to just let it burn and die.... ouch.
Well, I just had to write a little tribute to those people facing it, for us. I cannot comprehend what they go through, or what could happen if they didn't. What a blessing today's aviation is when used like this, to save lives and really help people. Just imagine life before! My parents owned a property at a place called Bindoon, until about 5 years ago. Several times there were big fires nearby, and one time they went up there and only days before a big fire had come within just metres of the house itself. The grass on the ground was burned right up that close, and had gone no further only because the fire fighters were there to stop it. They had to go onto the property and, I gather, dig up the water mains and connect to it, which did some damage to the property. Which you gladly accept and allow them to do, it's that or lose everything in the most horrible way.
What gets me most of all, though, is that they are *volunteers* who do this, fighting those terrible fires in the most insanely dangerous and terrifying conditions. There just aren't the resources to maintain a full-scale, regular and *paid* bushfire fighting team of that scale, to use in these situations, as it'd be on the order of the entire defence budget to support it. But people need it and they know it has to be done, so they get out there and they do it themselves, paid or not, and "not" is usually the way. I can't thank them enough, on behalf of everyone. Spare a thought for them this summer, the hottest and most dangerous ever. Think of those water bombers, what a majestic, terrifying and dangerous job they do... it's off the scale. My hat's off to them and I wish them God's blessings.
https://www.theguardian.com/australi...nteractive-map
https://www.bushfirefront.org.au/abo...shfire-basics/
https://www.thebushfirefoundation.org/how-fire-behaves/
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Jan 12, 2020, 08:55 AM
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Army Grunt's Avatar

You have been on my mind


So you havent lost your stuff. Its hard to believe anything like this could happen, but California burns every year just like your place..really makes me wonder..you take care my friend
AG
Jan 12, 2020, 10:39 AM
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Hi AG, good to hear from you and thanks for the post. So it's just over a month since I posted that about the fires, and they have not stopped yet. Every day the news is full of the latest fire emergencies, most of it in NSW (New South Wales, in the south-east) and Victoria, the next state south of that. But they're everywhere. Recently I heard over 2000 properties in NSW alone have so far been destroyed by the fires, and the number of deaths is still rising. Very sadly, some of those people who died were those fire fighters, volunteers again. It's so terrible.

I wonder about the animals, someone posted a video that really got me. When they got back to their car it had about a dozen koalas in it, all hiding and trying to shelter from the fires. They're like pandas, they can only eat one thing, the leaves of certain trees, as far as I know about them. Poor little guys, desperate for water, and the forest which is their only home is all destroyed. But what about all the birds too, and the little mammals, who once again depend on having just the right trees and other species, some of them can only eat certain leaves, or certain insects and stuff, and so many of them must be all burned out now. It's so sad..
I just found this quote from one of those links I posted - "an accidental fire in the northern Tanami (in) 2011 burnt an area at least 5 million ha. There are 22 European countries smaller than that". That's nearly 12 and a half million acres... wow. I don't usually go to church and all of that, but these fires are making me pray for people. It hasn't affected me, living in the big city (Perth, WA) but it certainly has affected many people where those fires are. Some of them won't have insurance, there's nothing for them. How'd you be, huh? One day everything you have goes up in smoke, literally.
Once again I've just been out to the country with a band, playing a local gig down on the south coast and a little mini-festival of half a dozen rock bands. I had a great time, we were in the beautiful, picture-perfect town of Denmark, West Australia. If you're ever out this way I'd highly recommend coming to see that sweet little town. Pretty as a picture, and I really noticed how everybody is actually more friendly than up in the city. It has such a lovely, pleasant climate too. The hardest part of living here for me is the hot summers, many days over 38 C (100 degrees F). But down there it just doesn't get that hot, this is the height of our summer and it was like a mild spring day down there. Just perfect.

So anyway, that's a forest town. Most of the way down there, and all around those towns down there, it's all forest. It was logged very heavily and the majority of it is gone, but even so there's just miles and miles and miles of trees. One scary way to look at it is as *fuel*, all with the potential to burn. And I was watching all those trees swaying in the strong breeze off the ocean, perfect for fanning the flames. Everywhere you go there's signs up warning people not to light fires, or even throw a cigarette butt away carelessly, they're terrified of it at the moment, with all that bad news coming from the eastern states about fire.
I've usually been to the south-west in winter, when it's been raining and everything is lush and green. I don't remember going down there in summer, and I really saw the difference. We passed many farms and it's all very dry and brown or yellow, but in winter it's all green. That dryness means it's able to burn. I also noticed there were scorch marks on the tree trunks but only up to about head height, so that looks to me like the local council has been in there burning off the dry fuel on the ground. Good! That's what they need to do, to reduce the risk. In recent years people complained about it, because it makes a lot of smoke and people don't like the idea of the fires affecting the wildlife. But if you live down there a while then you know how important it is to reduce the risk of fire.
Hey I've got to go do something but I'd like to post some more about this later. You can see I'm passionate about it.
Thanks again for posting, great to hear from you. All the best AG, from Bernie
Jan 12, 2020, 02:43 PM
What could possibly go wrong?
Thread OP
When you turn on the TV news it's basically all about the bushfires, with sometimes just a little world news thrown in. There have been many terrible bushfire seasons here but this one just won't stop, it's been going for a couple of months already, and the size of it is terrifying. Far as I know this one has burned out more land and more people's homes than any I can remember hearing about.
So everywhere you go there are bushfire appeals, everyone is putting in a few bucks towards fire relief. I eat at macdonalds about twice a year tops, and I did tonight because I'd just got back from the country. Nowadays you don't go up to a counter and place your order with a human teenager, now they've got new these touch screens, it's the only way they accept orders now. I hate it. But there was a box to add to your order, one dollar or two dollars towards the bushfires. I definitely hit that button.
Down in Denmark there were all these cute little bakeries and cafes and fish and chip shops, that kind of thing, and just about all of them had a collection jar or some way you can donate from your phone or whatever.
I also just heard there will be a big benefit concert tour. Queen and, someone else, I forget but another world class touring act, have donated their services to help raise money. That's great, it should raise big dollars and it's the sort of show I sometimes work on as local crew. I hope it comes to Perth, if our company doesn't work on it I'd probably buy a ticket and go see it.

The news says the conditions are finally starting to ease up just a little, which might give the fire fighters a chance to regroup and get on top of it, I've just heard that the number of out-of-control fires has greatly reduced. I'm really thinking about those people, they are doing a magnificent job.
Conditions this season have been really bad, the worst ever. The weather maps show the whole middle of the country deep red, meaning HOT. It's stinking hot out there, a big mass of hot air has been hanging over South Australia and parts of Vic, NSW and Queensland but especially SA, often over 45C / 113 F, or even hotter. And that's been going for weeks on end, since November I think.
There's strong winds straight off the hot desert onto those fires, hot and dry and it's really set in for weeks now. Drying everything out that little bit more. .There's also been a terrible drought for at least 10 years over most of the country, but especially the eastern half I'd say. Not that WA here has done much better.
So everything's bone dry out there, and then they get these hot windy conditions to fan it and lots of lightning strike or other causes of fire, and it spread viciously. They've known the conditions have been getting more and more dangerous for years, now it's all coming true. At times all the many out-of-control fires were linking up into a "super fire" or "mega fire" and it was awful, fire twisters or whatever they're called, and the way the forest goes up with all that hot wind going through it, it's so scary. They show the sky full of smoke with this orange glow everywhere, real bright orange, and it doesn't change as much in darkness from day to night because the fire's always glowing off the clouds. It looks terrifying. I think of those people out there, and the animals too, what a disaster.
At least they're better prepared for it these days. People had all the protection and shelter and evacuation plans they could, and I'm sure that saved a lot of lives and homes, but this time it's just overwhelming. They had to learn about that stuff the hard way too, there have been such terrible fires in some places before.
Fighting that fire I've seen video of even a DC-10 converted to a water bomber, down low over the trees. I don't know if that was filmed here or the US or where but the context I saw it in said it was in Aussie.
Can you imagine that, flying a wide-body tri-jet that low over the ground then slinging tens of tons of water and chemicals onto the trees, in a plane meant to hold a steady cruise at something like 40,000 feet. I believe there was at least one 747 water bomber somewhere too wasn't there? If anyone knows about this I'd love to get more info.
One rep[ort from Victoria showed a little town on a river somewhere and they had their hopes in a Piper Pawnee on floats someone had all set to go as a water bomber. You really gotta admire these guys.
Anyway that's what's on my mind about my country right now. I've not done any model stuff for a while but I'm trying to get back into it. I'm hoping to go pick up a Proxxon mini table saw in the next couple of weeks I'm going to try hard to set up a good work area again.
It's good to chat to you again Army Grunt, I better catch up on a few more posts on RCGroups here and see what everybody's been up to. I'm still intending to finish off my idea of an Ugly Stik for a Saito twin soon, that started well but I had some family stuff over the past year so I kind of dropped it for a while. But now that's over I want to get into it again.
All the best my friend
EDIT - I just heard that some suburbs of Perth had to evacuate from a fire, down along the south corridor of the city along the freeway down there, if I remember rightly it was down by Ankatel Road. I really hope we are spared a bad fire season here around the south-west after the fires over east. I've just driven down there and back recently and it's really gorgeous down there.
Last edited by BernardW; Jan 13, 2020 at 11:04 AM.
Jan 13, 2020, 11:02 AM
What could possibly go wrong?
Thread OP
From ten years and two days ago today. Says it was on trials in Victoria, Australia at the time. I'll read up about this aircraft on Wikipedia too
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC-10_Air_Tanker
DC-10 Fire Bomber in Action (2 min 15 sec)

The DC-10 Air Tanker (4 min 39 sec)
Last edited by BernardW; Jan 13, 2020 at 11:13 AM.
Today, 05:23 AM
What could possibly go wrong?
Thread OP
I am so sorry to hear that among the dead in the most recent volunteer fire fighter tragedy in NSW, were US volunteers. To lend your assistance to the extent of actually travelling to someone else's country and do such a vital thing to help people, and then to pay the ultimate price, that really strikes me. In the USA please know that we're very grateful for that help and very sorrowful for that loss.
The big news recently was that those states worst hit by fires got a lot of rain, at last. But it actually developed into mighty storm cells and flash floods and did huge damage in its own right, and of course only some of the rain actually fell on fires. The storms were so severe THEY became the next big emergency. Things are improving, as the conditions are easing a little and helping the fire crews to catch up a bit, but it's still pretty desperate out there. Those fires have not stopped, there is still a vast swathe of land burning. The main effect of the rain seems to have been relief for some of the worst of the drought.
I for one don't need much more convincing that the climate is changing, I even think I believe it's humans that have caused it. Some people don't believe it and I'm not going to argue with them. However you see it, it's pretty clear that things are changing for whatever reason. Be warned by these fires and those you've just been through in California, there's more of this to come.


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