Hello fellow brinellers and Dr Brin.

I'm mindful that co-listees with Culturelist will know that the bushfires in Victoria are VERY close to home for me and my wife. For the rest of you: Claire has been working in the Major Incident Room at Victoria Police during the bushfire crisis, and she's seeing and hearing stuff far worse than makes the public media. So much so that my wife really doesn't need to see stuff about the bushfires on social email lists. Hence, I'm posting a few things here on Brin-L, as she's not here and I think some local perspective might go further than the news does. Any fellow Australia residents who've been affected, forgive me if anything I post is too soon for you. My thoughts are of course with you.

Right. The official death toll is now 201. The last death was a fireman from the ACT, in a firetruck who was hit by a falling tree bough while driving between fires. He was the first, and hopefully the last, firefighter to be killed during this particular firestorm. Of those 201 dead, I fortunately do not know any victims personally. But friends from my Melbourne Victory (soccer) supporting crowd have lost people they've known since school. As have students and colleagues of a teacher friend, and also Girl Guides that Claire knows - a pair from a troop not far from us lost their parents. There are very few people we know in the city that don't at least have 2nd degree grief. It's a huge event, because while Melbourne is a big city, it's a small town too and the interconnectedness here is higher than most people outside might understand.

The thing people won't get is this: whole towns have been razed. Totally gone. The fires were 60m high in places, with embers landing up to 20km in front of the fire front. There's footage of the fire spreading up a ridgeline, and even folks familiar with bushfire defence are gobsmacked at the rate of advance. We witnessed a natural disaster on the scale of the Boxing Day Tsunami or the Argentinian mudslides, and in terms of the effect on our emergency services and the population, it's been compared to the World Trade Centre attacks (and that may seem like hyperbole, but think of the vast geographic spread of this disaster, compared with the total population of the region and the available police and emergency crews... make sense now?). If it weren't for a fortunate cool change and wind change on the afternoon of Saturday 7 February, we'd have been fighting fires in the suburbs of Melbourne and maybe even into my own suburb. This is a terrifying thought.

There are still several fires on the go in Victoria. The town of Healesville, about an hour from the Melbourne CBD, has been on full alert for 10 days now, and they're feeling the strain.

So, I hope after this, those who crosspost to Culture will get why some are reluctant to have discussions on esoterica and meta-causes right now. And for the Brin-L crew, I hope I've given a tiny window into the stress of life in Victoria during this crisis. We've been dealing as best we can, but it's very hard right now. Not least for the 7500 persons or so that are homeless now. Refugees in modern Australia... a bit nuts, huh.



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