Sunday, December 10, 2006

Smoke Haze

Rye Beach

The Nylex Clock in Richmond.

Reader's picures from The Age

We are sequestered indoors today because of soaring temperatures (39ºC/102ºF) and smoke haze. We escaped the house early yesterday before the temperatures rose and went down to the Yarra for a play and a drink at the beautiful Fairfield Boathouse. The smoke hung over the Yarra like a mist, reminding us that in less citybound bush, people were fighting for their homes or waiting anxiously to see if the fire would spread their way. It makes me realise how lucky we are to live where we do. We dream of living in the bush but it's a naive dream. I honestly don't know if I could cope with the threat of fire, if I could stay and fight.

Even here, shut up inside our relatively cool Victorian terrace, far away from the fire's path we can smell smoke. We haven't seen blue sky for two days. The bush, usually a romantic, distant, quiet, empty presence surrounding the hub of the city, is suddenly intensely populated and we fear for the people who live there. The bush isn't over there, it's here, it's coming by air, converted by flame into smoke. Smoke signals fill the sky, but here in the city we barely understand the message. We know enough though to know it isn't good news.

A Southerly change is forecast for today, bringing with it the promise of a cool change and a clear sky in Melbourne. But the change in wind direction might not spell such good fortune in the bush. They say the fires might burn all summer. That's a lot of homes, a lot of human hours, a lot of fear, a lot of trees and animals (native and otherwise), a lot of loss, a lot of long nights in unfamiliar bush.

I am eager for the cool change and for the smoke to clear. But I can't help feeling that while Melbourne gets its reprieve things are still going to be challenging in the rest of the state for a long hot dry summer.

Eep: Edited to say that it actually got up to 42.1ºC today. But the cool change is here, and it came in time for dinner which was decent of it.


  1. Anonymous12:07 AM

    Oh that sounds very scary! We've had smoky haze over Hobart today and yesterday, although some blue sky came with it. It's hard that the constant smell of smoke reminds you of fires somewhere else. It's something very sadly Australian too - not like this in lil ole Christchurch NZ where I grew up.

  2. Anonymous8:14 PM

    As we drove over the West Gate Bridge yesterday past the city and through the orange haze it felt apocalyptic; as if the true, implacable face of global warming had arrived. Here I am, deal with me -- too late. Made all the fuss about terrorism and flour in John Howard's office etc seem unbearably trite and far away. This is our reality now and in the future, and what are we doing about it?