Bushfire and rebirth.

Next month will see the tenth anniversary of the devastating Black Saturday bushfires that were burning on or around Saturday, 7th February 2009 in the state of Victoria. There were 180 fatalities and the fires covered an area of over 450,000 hectares (1700 square miles). More than 2000 houses were destroyed as well as a similar number of other buildings.

The Black Saturday fires started on 7 February 2009. Approximately 400 fires were recorded across Victoria, affecting 78 communities.

A week before the fires, a significant heatwave affected southeastern Australia. From 28–30 January, Melbourne broke temperature records by experiencing three consecutive days above 43 °C (109 °F), with the temperature peaking at 45.1 °C (113.2 °F) on 30 January, the third hottest day in the city’s history.

One town, Marysville and its surrounding area lost all but 14 of its 600 houses and buildings. Total fatalities was thirty nine.

What started these fires? Certainly there was evidence that faulty electricity supply lines were to blame, two were definitely arson and some were from sparks from machinery. Also there were lightning strikes and spotting from other fires.

Yesterday I drove up to have a look at Marysville.

First I drove to the town of Lilydale about 45 km roughly west of Melbourne. It is pretty well built up all that way. But east of Lilydale is the Yarra Valley and as of today there are 94 different wine cellar doors to visit as well as cideries and orchards.

Looking Northeast from Lilydale. I’m heading for those hills.
The white sheet is a net covering the apple orchard of a cider maker.

The following photos will be best if you see them on a screen larger than your mobile phone.

Grapes and apples.

But a little farther along on the road to Healesville we come to drying pasture – ‘cos it is January and summer is here for a while.

And I think I will take you for a drive up to the top of that mountain. Mt Donna Buang.

The blue haze is often confused with smoke from fires but is actually caused by the eucalyptus oil vapour that is most present on hot days.

I just can’t give you any idea of the quiet and the whispering of wind in the treetops and the smell of the perfume of eucalyptus and peppermint and lemon. But you will have to take my word for it.

The view from the top of Donna Buang.

Some of the 126 steps I climbed to get to the top of the mountain.
I measured the tree in front of the car. 45  metres .

Now we are getting to the meat of the pie.

We are approaching Marysville and these trees weren’t burnt.

These were. I told you about the regenerative power of Eucalypts. The trees all show signs of epicormic buds which have replaced the burnt branches. There are many variations in the regeneration of these forests.

The following couple of photos are of Marysville today.

The ones below were taken about ten years ago.

Just about 4 km out of town are the Stevenson Falls. It is summer and they aren’t very dramatic but still lovely to look at.

Ten years ago they looked like this;

Look how quickly the tree ferns recover.

But ten years later there are still signs above. All the white sticks are the remains of huge dead trees that will stay there for many years to come.

Forest recovery varies according to many factors;

The fire may have spread so rapidly in front of raging winds that only the top branches burnt.

If the fire was more at ground level then many seeds would sprout. Many Australian plant require fire to promote regeneration but if the fire occurs during a hot dry summer the young seedling will invariably die.

In many areas the eucalypts many burn and the tree that regenerates in its place will be the Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii.) This in not related to the Northern Hemisphere myrtle. They usually grow to 30–40 m (98–131 ft) tall. Unfortunately I am not 100% sure of the difference between the Myrtle and some of the very similar looking Eucalypts. But they are all pretty big.

These are definitely String Bark and can, depending on variety, grow to 80 metres in height.

And even trees bleed.

I think these are myrtle beech.
This is the view of the mountains from Warburton on the south side of the range




19 thoughts on “Bushfire and rebirth.

  1. It’s a worrying time, I’m dreading the month of February more than ever this year.
    The Blue Mountains. here, might look spectacular, but they are just waiting to burst into flame, and there’s quite likely some insane arsonist waiting to do his thing.
    The fires are so much worse than the floods, destroy more kill more and scar the land, I know some fires are necessary but out of control don’t come into that category.
    Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, and I’m sick of TV news readers tellings how wonderful the day is when there are bright clear skies and the humidity reading is almost zero. At least there’s something you And I won’t argue about.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Those talking heads have never seen been involved in a bush fire,
        I’ve only been involved with a couple of small ones more than 50 years ago, but an experience never to be forgotten and never wanted to be repeated.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve never understood why people want to start fires like that. In England, teenage boys are costing the nation around £2 billion pounds minimum with their attacks on every empty building they can find. But setting fire to your beautiful countryside is infinitely worse.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And the key thrown away. Australia is beautiful but harsh. The horror of fire is ever present during summer. Weeks ago it was Rockhampton but the Marysville one was especially horrible.
        But there have been others in the past. Arsonists should be treated like murderers.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In Victoria they are.
        Brendan Sokaluk, 42, was found guilty of 10 counts of arson causing death in the Victorian Supreme Court for deliberately lighting the Churchill fire on February 7, 2009.
        He will serve a non-parole period of 14 years


  3. What lovely photographs, John. Thank you 🙂 That image of the fire is so intense, the heat made worse, I assume, by the oil in the eucalypts. We are lucky that we don’t often have to worry about fires in the Summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do hope there is no repeat of the devastation that occurred 10 years ago. We in Saskatchewan also live with the annual possibility of raging summer bush, grass, and forest fires. We quite often had to limit our time outdoors last year because of the heavy smoke. At least our temperatures rarely go above 100 degrees F.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a great post, John, along with your magnificent photos. I think our planet is in for more extreme weather than we can manage. I remember being horrified at your 2009 fires. And now we have West Coast infernos for which we’re ill prepared. Kudos for making it to the top of that tower! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Elouise. I am convinced that we are wrecking our own world and denying the cause. But it is hard to do anything when we continue buying more and bigger machines that require more energy and the manufacturers are supplying us because we look at our neighbours and say, “You must live in poverty so that we can live in the lap of luxury and excess.”

      Liked by 3 people

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