‘Never seen anything like this’: readers respond to bushfires | Australia news
As intense bushfires wreaked havoc across New South Wales and Queensland this week, we asked Guardian readers to share their stories of how they are affected by the unprecedented event.
Our open thread revealed a high level of anxiety in affected communities about worsening climate conditions and longer bushfire seasons. The anxiety appears to be exacerbated by a perceived lack of government action on climate change and politicians at state and federal levels refusing to discuss climate change while the country burns. Others reported health issues, especially those with breathing conditions, and worried about access to medical care. Many readers were concerned about wildlife killed or injured in the fires and some returned home to provide water and food for birds and other wildlife.
Below is an edited collection of responses.
‘It’s a strange place to be emotionally’
“Our valley has been evacuated. We sit in our local town staying with fabulous friends but our fingers are crossed that our house and all we own, survives. It’s a strange place to be emotionally.” – valleyman
“I feel a bit silly but I am feeling the effects of it all, lack of sleep, running on empty day in and out, picking up branches that drop off the trees in case an ember drops and ignites them. So, pretty emotional today, yet very lucky to have escaped anything drastic like so many others who are suffering.
“We are in Tuncurry, mid-north coast … our 17th day of blanketing smoke. We have packed and unpacked twice. Now packing again as RFS predicted fire path shows that with conditions worsening throughout the day, we could be severely impacted.
“People up here say they’ve never seen anything like this in 30-40 years.” – moth76
‘The smoke in the air affected my breathing’
“Day 18 of the fires around Tuncurry. Our house – just off Lakes Way, surrounded by some huge 8 ft pine trees and eucalypts – is still miraculously OK.
“My husband and I got woken by the RFS notifications, 22 in all within a 20km radius. So different to the early hours of the morning when there were only five fires within 20km.
“Even though we have escaped the worst, it does take its toll, mentally and physically, especially when you have chronic breathing problems.” – moth76
“I have a breathing disease and the smoke in the air affected my breathing. Thankfully it was for only two days as I am a distance away from the nearest fire. My eyes also began to sting and water on one of those days when the smoke was particularly thick.
“Minor, but still impacting on me.
“Smoke, smoke, and more smoke from the Lindfield Park fire in Port Macquarie that has been burning since LATE JULY. Residents have been putting up with very poor air quality all day, every day for months.
“Health department advice is to stay inside if you suffer from asthma or bronchitis. This is completely unrealistic over such an extended period of time. And for those of us who don’t have asthma or bronchitis, we are probably about to develop these conditions, or worse, any day now.” – readingthepaperstill
‘I have come home to conduct a welfare check on the bird life’
“I have taken an early mark to come home and conduct a welfare check on the bird life. We feed and provide drinking water to a significant number of lorikeets, currawongs and a family of magpies, including this year’s fledglings of all of those species. I said to MrsRGdA the other day that she may look at this place as her home, but it is also their habitat and we have an obligation to make it a sustainable resource for them too.” – randomguydeaustralie
“We have a large variety of birds that have been hand fed on/off in the dry periods … and two beautiful fledgling magpies whose parents have brought their kids to me for the past three seasons that we’ve been here (and then, unceremoniously, chase them away six months later to fend for themselves, breaking my heart).
“How these two little ones have survived the past 18 days is beyond me, and worries me to death day and night.
“I put out extra water bowls around the front and backyards when the fires began weeks ago, for any birds and wildlife, but I can guarantee that an hour after they’re cleaned and filled and placed all around our tiny acreage, they’re filled with ash and embers.” – moth76
“Watching the tree-tops on fire I thought about the koalas, the possums, the many other creatures that don’t have a chance. How many millions of animals die? Animals that are already at extinction’s door. Will the trees and plants regenerate as they usually do, or has the drought weakened them so much that the fires will finish them off?” – LovelyDaffodils
‘Stop all the stupid denial and do something’
“I am on the southern edge of the Stockyard East fire near Port Macquarie that is still going strong but it blasted through my property on Friday. I managed to save my house and my 75-year-old mum single-handedly saved hers!
“As I look around at all the devastation I am sad but also so angry that our politicians still have their eyes closed to the reality of climate change. This is not normal. This is not just another drought to be explained away as a natural cycle. Nearly 1 million hectares of NSW is burnt, much of that hadn’t burnt for hundreds of years because it was always too wet! And in November. Stop all the stupid denial and do something, Mr Morrison.” – anginpapps
“Let’s see if this government changes significantly after this has passed, or whether it is business as usual.” – LovelyDaffodils
“This government is heartless, greedy, rude and negligent of its duties to a level that should be made a criminal offence!” – ClosetIntellectual
“The idea of not talking about climate change during a climate-related event has been met with derision by the public.
“What else are we not supposed to talk about that is uncomfortable for politicians? Don’t talk about war during a war? Don’t talk about hardship while people are suffering through it perhaps?
“They have really missed the public mood in parliament and seem to be out of the solar system compared to reality.” – misterwildcard
“I live on the mid-north coast amongst the trees. With the help of the firefighters and luck with the wind, we are still here.
“Over winter there were very few chances to carry out hazard reduction. This is because for the last few years winter has been a non-event.
“There is a yawning chasm of experience between the ‘suits’ and those living closer to nature.” – cosmos57
“Stay safe everyone.” – nowheretorun