On Saturday February 7th 2009 the temperature in Victoria reached record levels. In Melbourne the temperature peaked at 47 degrees. The three preceding days had been 43 degrees. Over 400 fires started in Victoria that day. The wind gusts were over 100 kilometres per hour. In some cases the fire travelled at a rate of 1.2 Km per minute. One hundred and seventy three people died, 414 were injured, and 21,000 homes were destroyed. The picturesque township of Marysville was destroyed and Kinglake was devastated. We were spared because of a sudden shift in wind direction. The fire had already passed through Saint Andrews. Two people sheltered on a farm that had open spaces. They stayed there till the fire passed.and then went back to their respective homes. The fire was heading in the direction of Warrandyte but then the wind changed direction and headed back to Saint Andrews. Those two people and eighteen others in Saint Andrews died. The death toll of wildlife is unknowable and unimaginable.
New homes have been built. Marysville is once again a thriving village. The people of Kinglake are bravely getting on with their lives, as are the survivors of other villages and small settlements in the Yarra Valley region here. Copious ferns now dot the hills beside the road that goes through the Black Spur to Marysville. The black, scorched trunks of eucalypts have budded back to life. There is greenery here now. And there are scars.
The poem "Black is all I see" was written by Mike Claridge of Ararat, Victoria.