What a relief

What a pleasant relief it was to be woken in the night by falling rain, rather than the anticipated phone call or text message advising to evacuate. And though it fell good and steady it was still not quite enough to extinguish the fires but certainly enough to put minds at ease.
What an anxious three weeks it has been with high temperatures, shifting winds, thick smoke and falling ash. Bad enough for humans who have an understanding of the situation, due in large part to our ability to communicate, eg. the excellent ABC radio coverage. But for animals and birds it must have been particularly stressful, even plants and trees dropped leaves and fruit. With fluctuations in air quality, sudden shifts in temperature and visibility, coupled with falling ash and debris, it’s as close to a nuclear winter any of us would want to get.
But for all our discomfort; tripping over packed bags, half packed cars and eskis and constantly tuned to radio bulletins, it is little compared to what the front line fire fighters have endured. Twenty days of continuously battling against all odds, with little respite, these men and women truly are heroes. One regular volunteer firie from Port Huon is in his 70’s would you believe! No blokes of his age should dare complain about sore knees again! They gave selflessly of their time, putting themselves at great risk to save us and our properties with little reward. They deserve a medal everyone of them.
Talking of reward, during the week word had it there was a growing number of people at the Huonville Scout Hall queuing for “fire relief payment”, presumably funded by the DRFA, approved by our fly-in fly-out political dignitaries. There seemed to be some confusion as to the qualification criteria for payment other than being a Huon Valley resident with some ID. Some said it was to compensate for the inconvenience caused by the fires? Understandable for those who were required to evacuate and those who have medical conditions, but for the majority there was no loss of power, garbage was collected, mail was delivered, mobile coverage maintained. Others claimed it was a financial stimulus package to assist local business for loss of income. Whatever, it seems a curious dichotomy; on the one hand there are volunteers that give their all freely and others who receive reward for putting up with a couple of weeks of coughing and wheezing?! Presumably those who accepted payment did so from necessity and spent it with discretion.
Otherwise, let’s hope there’s a few quid left in the kitty for a celebration in honour of the great people, the firies, who did so much and deserve so much. Whaddya reckon – band, beer and sausage sizzle on what was the evacuation ground?
John Barnard
Gardners Bay

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