I worked Black Saturday. I was glued to the radio all day, listening to the information about the fires from local ABC radio.
I finished work at 6pm and drove home, still listening. It was so hot and I was not in a good frame of mind after spending a day in the 40 plus degree heat. We were going to the local pub with friends for dinner. R and I had a nasty little argument. He refused to go and I went on my own. He was in bed when I arrived home about 9pm. I tuned into the radio again until about midnight.
For the whole day, as they had for the previous week, the non specific warning had rolled on and on. I was well aware that the fires were big and serious, but at no point did I pick up that decent sized towns were under threat. The radio just droned on and on, enact your fire plan. Go early or stay and defend. (Insert town name), is under threat of ember attack. Residents should be aware that they may be threatened by a fire.
What actually happened was mega fires roared across certain areas, consuming everything in its path, houses, buildings, cars and people the same. It was only from peoples' own observations that some knew fire was coming.
The Royal Commission will come up with its conclusions, but I already have some of my own.
In these days of satellites in the sky, able to pinpoint anything, phone signals that travel over the air waves, phones that use a satellite signal, television, radio, sms and god forbid, the old fashioned fire siren, is it not possible for fire authorities to note the direction of the strong wind, see a big fire and tell folks in a town, there is a large fire approaching, pushed by very strong winds, the like of what we have never seen before.
Our official advice is to GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE.
Could no one see the fires and where they were headed and warn people? Seems not.
I slept fitfully that Saturday night, waking every so often to tune into the radio to hear what was happening.
By next morning, ABC Radio had reporters on the ground in Marysville. I can't remember what was said, but I had also heard about a fire in Bendigo where Sister and Little Jo were. I called her to see if she was ok, and she was, although she had her car packed are ready to go to the centre of town. I must have heard something about Marysville though, as I said to Sister, it looks like Marysville has gone. At that point, I had no idea of the death of nearly a couple of hundred people at various locations.
The last thing I would want CFA volunteers and DSE ground staff to think that I am being critical of them. Nope, the blame surely must lie with what I think has become a large paid bureaucracy at the top of or within the CFA and perhaps to a lesser extent, the DSE.
One person, looking at a screen showing incoming information from human and technical sources could have made a few phone calls to someone in charge in different areas and tell them to evacuate this and this and this town.
Now what shall I do. Watch surfer boys on Waikiki Beach, the horrendous traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge or a tiger giving birth at Amsterdam zoo, seeminly all a lot easier than fire watching.