Fire at Jeeralang

Just one of the reasons posts are light at the moment is all the fire activity around. There is a big fire (less than) 2 km to the South of us. It has so far burned out nearly 2,000 hectares! Such things seem to only ever occur when the wind decides it will blow from such an unlikely direction (as South) too, so it has sometimes been heading our way! When we were threatened by fire for two weeks back in 2009 (It got to 200 metres from our east fence that time!) the wind wanted to blow from the east (which it practically never does).

A few weeks ago there was a big fire over near Rosedale to the East of us which also had us worried for a while. There is a lot of forest between that (Holey Plains) fire and us. The season started well enough, but it has dried out badly since January. We have missed several promising rain bands. Usually (?) it is wetter than this around here – and some water in the rivers for canoeing!

Fire along the nearby Jumbuk Rd ridge (or to the South of it) 02/03/2019 (Taken from Jeeralang Junction). Those flames must be enormous.

Fire near Jumbuk Rd 03/03/2019 (choppers working furiously to stop it!) It looks from the fire map as if it got across the road (mainly into grassland) at one point at least but from what I can see appears to be extinguished on this side. I can’t imagine on that steep country anything but aircraft would have been able to stop it.

Mind you, a friend of mine (Neville Somerfield) used to live in 1939 in Jumbuk Road just where the fire seems to have crossed it this time. Somehow, his father and the other nearby farmers managed to stop the fire with horse drawn ploughs and wet bags from engulfing their steep hill farms. (Many elsewhere did not succeed, and lots of folks were horribly burned). There was nowhere near as much wilderness of native vegetation and waste land back then though.

Of course, everyone had hessian bags in the past. They were a excellent fire suppression devices. I have often used this method to smudge out a grass fire. You can still buy them from McRoberts feed and grain in Morwell (I have) though curiously practically nothing comes in them any more. Imagine trying to put out a fire with one of the new poly bags!

The fire is now in part of the Morwell National Park (more or less just over the hill behind us). It is steep, heavily forested, difficult country. I know they have taken heaps of dozers and other earth-moving equipment past here though. I’m hoping they can keep it out of the Billys Creek section. So far, so good I think. I have just been for a drive around on our side of the Jumbuk Rd. All seems OK.

The weather is quite calm today (with slight rain forecast tomorrow) so it may be stopped before it reaches us, or on the road at the top of our property – otherwise it will be at the edge of Della’s garden! It is cooler weather today (32C) with 30 tomorrow and 20s the rest of the week and no alarming winds forecast that I can see – so there is hope. About an hour ago (10:00 am 04/03/2019) they downgraded the risk from ‘Emergency’ to ‘Watch and Act’, so clearly the risk has moderated somewhat this morning.

Of course there has been no fuel reduction or firebreaks etc since they created the park, previously state forest and much better maintained then. The long grass in it used to be grazed down by sheep for one thing. Hundreds of koalas etc will be burned to death if the fire can’t be stopped. This idea (National Parks) is the worst conservation imaginable.

This young koala was at our mailbox just the other day. They are certainly cute little guys.

The sheep have the paddocks fairly well eaten down. There is still some dry grass on the hill paddocks, but it is thin. We have pushed all the sheep into one mob in a two acre paddock along the creek where it is either green/bare earth, and we are feeding them big round bales of silage inside weldmesh circles. They should survive there. If the fire does come here it will have to first creep across the dry grass of the paddocks (downhill) to the house which is surrounded with reasonably well-watered green grass and plants.

We have three fire pumps, (one mounted on one of the Landies with a 1,000 litre cube of water). We have two generators which will keep the house and pumps running if/when the power goes out. We have lots of 3/4″ hoses all around which we can pick up to hose down approaching flames. We have sprinklers on the roof and under the verandahs. Of course there are only two of us (not counting dogs who are going ‘stir crazy’), and we are not as fit as we might like to be at present – but we will cope! It was a bit more tense last night. We were sitting for hours outside on the verandah with the sprinklers going all around us watching the ash fall like snow all about!

As a last resort, we can jump in the dam which is surrounded by bare earth or green grass, so we expect to live. (Everyone always expects to live: The Spanish have a saying, ‘Everything has been going well up to now, said the peacock at the oven door’!) Of course we would also like to save the house and sheep which we have spent a large chunk of our lives creating.

Other people are also busily making their preparations all around us. There are all sorts of strange loads going by. Police have a road block at the Jeeralang Junction turn-off keeping all but locals (or those with a legitimate business) out. It is sad to think that there are low-life who will jump to take advantage of other people’s misfortunes. For far too long there have been too many people just ‘voting for a living’. Now almost half the population – it is no longer the Australia in which we grew up, and alas for that!

Local people have been posting some amazing photos of the fire. You can view some of them at a Facebook website my daughter, Merrin set up here.  For example this video here:

(I had the link wrong earlier. Sorry.)

Della: ’03/03/2019: The fire just behind us last night. Not looking good for today. The emergency map has us well inside the red zone now. The wind, when it picks up, is expected to blow away from us, so we might be lucky. Staying to defend at this stage, but the car is packed with a few things. Houses reportedly lost nearby: My heart goes out to those people. Emergency workers, volunteers and our amazing community are second to none in co-ordinating this emergency. This morning feels like the calm before the storm!

04/03/2019: All quiet and calm here, 5.00 a.m. Hardly a breath of wind in our valley. We have both slept reasonably well under the circumstances (with an ear to emergency updates). So far, so good. Thanks to everyone for kind messages and support.

05/03/2019: Just letting everyone know that the fire conditions are stable here:”Watch and Act” still in place, with firefighters gradually taming the beast and no movement of the fire towards us. Heartfelt gratitude to all for your kind concern, advice and love: I have read every word and your support has helped to carry me through. I have made a start on replying to you all individually, but it will take me a while to work through on this tiny phone keyboard and it won’t all happen today. I appreciated the advice from those of you who urged us to leave, and I am sorry that our decision to stay has caused upset and concern to so many. I can only say that such a decision is not lightly made, and in my case, came down to a gut reaction. I just could not walk away. Everyone is different, and in the end I think we have to be true to who we are. It was not about valuing property or things above life and loved ones, it was about a sense of belonging and place, of memories and happiness – and I could not refuse to fight for it all if I thought the fight was winnable. I still think so, having glimpsed the devastation of an old friend and her family whose house was lost on Saturday. Of course we would not stay against all odds and carefully weighed up the situation, which is different for every fire, every property and every person.
I hope this helps you to understand our actions a little.

06/03/2019: Around 12 degrees here this morning with intermittent light showers passing over…And official advice has just come through that the “Watch and Act” warning has been lifted. Winning!

We will keep you posted. The firefighters (especially CFA) are as usual doing heroic work. I used to be a member for years (until I used up about 7 of my nine lives!) but I feel it is a younger man’s task today. With this back and knee, and being all too likely to collapse with exhaustion from extreme heat and over-exertion it is wiser to not make myself a problem for others.

PS: Thanks for all the kind good wishes and statements of support.

PPS: I had hoped to be doing a post about a day trip on the Thomson River, or a 2-3 day trip on the Lower Latrobe but…The Deep Creek fire has caused the authorities to clear a number of tracks which they had previously closed or allowed to grow over. So, for example when the road blocks are lifted you will be able to drive down the Mitchell Creek Track (off the Cowwarr-Rawson Rd) , walk down the ridge with your pack raft and have a 3-4 hour paddle (through the best of the rapids) down to Cowwarr Weir or you might be able to put in above the Gorge from either the Marble Quarry or T9 Track. Of course the Thomson Dam fire has ‘stolen’ a lot of water from the river, so you will really have to pay attention to the Coopers Creek gauge height (minimum about .2 metre).

There is more water in the Lower Latrobe. It is a flat muddy river downstream from Morwell (so take your Sawyer Mini water filter). The best section(s) are from Rosedale down (2-3 days), but you can also put in at Crooks Lane (off Settlement Rd – look for St Albans Church on the corner). This will give you 1 very long day (or two short ones) on the river down to Longford mostly passing through forested country with abundant birdlife, etc. There will be a post about these trips when the fire risk abates – and the son is safely married! (Busy, busy!)

PPPS: We drove around the Deep Creek fire last week. Much of the area burned had been burned as recently as 2013 which shows how low their 5% ‘target’ fuel reduction is! Interestingly logged areas (even those which had been logged up to 10 years ago) did not burn! There is a lesson there! Before (and after) European settlement people used to burn as often as you could – so at least once a year, more often twice, just not allowing a fuel load to build up, and also creating an environment which supported abundant wild life (for hunting and eating!)

When we had the hill farm, Dobbins Hill (Jeeralang) I was always burning off. I used to be praised for this by the fire brigades who were nonetheless always being called by troublesome neighbours who refused to care for their surrounding land. When the 2009 fires swept through the property would not burn and so created a fire-break which saved many nearby lives! I can’t imagine what good folk think all this unburnt fuel is doing. Creatures can eat/shelter in fresh growth, but dry dead stuff is no good for anything.

Someone I know has from time to time (naughtily) been making their way in to look at the Yarra Falls in the Upper Yarra Catchment. This area has not been burned since 1939. The debris on the forest floor, particularly on the ridges is 45-60cm deep. It makes walking very difficult as you sink into it 15-30cm and as there are branches/rocks etc underlying it, you are forever stumbling. If there is this level of fuel to the East of Melbourne the situation will be dire indeed if ever there are vast dry thunderstorm events sweeping into Melbourne from the North-East. It would be hard to stop such an unimaginable fire before it reached the Yarra.

Note: Wind Direction: On the Vic Emergency App or website if you want to know which way the wind is coming from you can click on ‘Filters’ and when you refresh the map it will show you. I usually use Ozforecast . If you click on the day it will reveal the wind speed and direction for every hour of the day.

See Also:

Other ‘Fire’ Posts:



4 thoughts on “Fire at Jeeralang”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »