#Writephoto – Aflame

From the voice recordings of Dr Jeff Harrison

2 February

I am devastated. I received an email from my mother in Australia earlier today. It came while I was at the lab so I had to suffer in silence until I could get home and give vent to my anguish and my anger.

Much as I admire and enjoy working with Ben, I didn’t want him to notice something was amiss and start asking me difficult questions, which I am not yet ready to answer. I am not a person who can share my pain until I have assimilated it myself. I feel as if I have a huge lump in my chest and it is making me feel continuously nauseous.

I am reading aloud the content of the email so that I have it here alongside my thoughts on the matter.

My dear Jeff

I am so sorry to have to send you this terrible news via email. I tried to FaceTime you but your phone just rang and rang so I have resorted to contacting you in writing.

Your sister, Joanne, her husband, Bill, and baby, Juliet, are all dead. Burned to death in the great wildfire that swept through large parts of Victoria on the 27th of January. Maybe it is just as well that I am writing to you as if I were to speak to you I might give way completely to the pain and anguish I am experiencing at our huge loss.

As you know, since the 10th of December last year, Australia has been in the grip of a constant, record-breaking series of heat waves with no reprieves. December 2021 and January 2022 were recorded as the hottest months in Australian history and bitter experience has taught us that this kind of excessive heat, combined with the on-going drought situation, creates the perfect conditions for wildfires.

On the 26th of February, the state premier issued a warning about the extreme weather conditions that were expected for the next day. A total fire ban was declared and the whole state was on high alert with a significant number of firefighting personnel on standby.

The 27th of January turned out to be an extraordinarily hot day in Melbourne and its surrounds, with the temperature reaching 44.6 degrees Celsius, winds gusting at up to one hundred kilometres per hour and relative humidity plunging to less than six percent. The first fire started in the Dandenong Ranges and by 11.30 A.M. more than two hundred fires had been reported due to spotting caused by the wind carrying pieces of burning twigs, leaves and small embers ahead of the main fire. This obviously put immense pressure on Victoria’s and South Australia’s emergency services, and reduced their ability to react quickly to new fires.

Bill’s mother, Elaine, called me this morning with the news. “A dust storm warning was issued at 1.30 P.M and people were advised to stay indoors unless it was essential to go outside, minimise strenuous physical activity and seek emergency medical assistance if they experienced difficulties breathing, chest pains or other serious health concerns. Thirty minutes later, the city was enveloped by a giant dust cloud, which extended thousands of metres into the atmosphere.

“When the cloud struck, the temperature suddenly dropped and the wind abruptly changed direction. It ripped the gutters off my house and uprooted several trees in my area, that’s how strong it was. Within minutes, I couldn’t see further than the end of the neighbour’s property, the air was full of swirling, reddish-brown dust.

“The dust storm distracted the authorities from the wildfire and no one realised that the approaching fire had developed into a firestorm. I only found that out later, when the police constable came to tell me what happened to my son and his family.”

Elaine stopped speaking. I could hear her sobs and knew she was overcome with grief. Tears flowed freely down my own cheeks as my own loss overwhelmed me.

After a little while, her sobs ceased, and with an apology, she continued her story.

“The news said that the firestorm created its own fire-induced winds which caused the blaze to spread faster. Other smaller fires started on the outskirts of the city as a result of spotting and lightning strikes caused by the firestorm. The winds spread the blaze and the change in the wind caused by the drop in the temperatures from the dust storm, activated the sides of the main fire and the smaller fires making them broader and bigger.”

Elaine drew in a long, trembling breath and said, “Bill and Joanne’s house was right in the path of one of the smaller fires. It swept through their street destroying everything in its path. They’re gone, Leonie, gone forever.”

My dear sister, Joanne, dead, together with sweet baby, Juliet, who was not yet two years old. Dead due to climate change and the resultant heat waves and firestorms. I blame all the governments of the world for their pointless deaths. It is their collective inability to take the concisive steps that were necessary to reverse the effects of global warming that have caused this calamity.

In 2019, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies released findings that the average global temperature on earth had increased by approximately 0.8 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial levels. Climate scientists then released a report stating clearly that an increase in global temperatures of above 1.5 degrees Celsius could render earth unliveable. Who plays Russian roulette with facts like that? Short sighted governments, that’s who. Yes, they are all as guilty as if they had held guns to my sister and her family’s head and pulled the triggers.

This post is for Sue Vincent’s weekly photograph prompt Aflame. You can join in the challenge here: https://scvincent.com/2019/07/25/thursday-photo-prompt-aflame-writephoto/

24 thoughts on “#Writephoto – Aflame

  1. As we are guilty too for electing them. Over and over.
    It’s interesting to me that so many people see the end of the world in this photo. Scary times, tainting everything we experience. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People have been ignoring climate change for years because it seemed distant and didn’t impact them directly. That is changing really fast and people are bearing the brunt of heat and cold waves, flooding and other signals of changing climate. People are scared.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is my biggest fear living in the forest, fires. We’ve gotten this warning here in CA already. Unfortunately this might be the beginning of things to come. Good short that really touched my fears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had terrible fires in South Africa a few years ago. They were also in a forest area which made it extremely difficult to control them as the wood was dry. Hopefully, we can pull together as a race and stop this problem from spiraling out of control.


  3. wow powerful and strong warming here! Very well written

    You describe the fire process well Robbie and nice but sad to have our country mentioned in this way … sadly we lose many to fire even without the global crisis 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry, Kate. I know that the heat waves in Oz are awful. This is a piece of a greater book that covers the climate crisis on a world wide basis including the USA, UK, India and Southern Africa. It is terribly frightening when you see it all holistically. Oz suffers from drought and heat while parts of the US suffered temperatures of nearly -50 degrees celsius last winter. The air is so cold peoples lungs can freeze walking to their car in the drive way.

      Liked by 1 person

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