Photographer's Note

A big summer sky over a dense eucalyptus forest, not far from where some of the tragic, catastrophic bushfires are burning in our state of Victoria. Police are sure some of the fires have been deliberately lit by arsonists, who now face the wrath of the nation and possibly life in prison if they are caught.

Beyond the horizon, where you can see the path gouged out of the forest for the high tension power lines, about 20km away the town of Eskdale has spent the day on high alert for 'spot fires' (started by wind-blown embers from existing fires that may be many kilometers away, or by lightning strikes in the incredibly dry bush) ahead of the main fires burning out of control and heading east from towns slightly to the south, such as Beechworth and Yackandandah. Some fires have already started in the area and tonight tiny Eskdale and surrounding farms remain under threat. My friends on their farm south of Mitta Mitta have been rounding up their cattle to place them in a paddock (field) which they can dampen with irrigation water from a small creek, in readiness should the fires continue advancing in that direction across mountainous country.

Already, 135 people are known to have died in three days, following the astounding conditions last Saturday when temperatures reached 48 degrees with winds of 100km per hour. Only five years ago, devastating fires burned through the countryside in the area shown in this photo, although without loss of human life on this scale. Today, grief and shock has overwhelmed the nation. Several towns have been completely wiped out.

This photo was taken only two weeks ago, from a truck driving across the wall of the Dartmouth Dam on the Mitta Mitta River, looking east. You can see the river if you look closely. The road takes one to the Omeo Highway, and then south to Mitta Mitta or north to Eskdale. This type of forest burns with stupendous rapidity in windy conditions, fuelled by the tinder-dry undergrowth and the oil-bearing eucalyptus trees. Ironically, the forest itself will regenerate quite quickly and be healthier as a result; many humans and animals are lost forever.

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Additional Photos by Andrew McRae (macondo) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2997 W: 101 N: 5253] (20449)
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