As I endure the nor’ west gales that first made their presence known at 6 a.m., I am not surprised to hear the melancholy drone of fire sirens.
The town fire siren was first heard at around 10 but given that the fire truck and tanker have been occupied for practically every minute since then, heroically fighting fires up and down the countryside, just a single blip has been heard from the town’s siren with each new fire alert, coming every hour or two.
It’s a nor’ west day, I recall thinking, that’s the way it goes.
By 5 p.m. the wind is at its most fierce – forecasters promised winds of up to 140 kph but I dunno. Let’s call it 120.
I estimate the wind will die back soon so step outside and start making rectifications: broken branches need tidying, garden archways need straightening, rubbish bins need locating; deck furniture also needs collecting from wherever it has ended up.
I can see a thick haze of smoke in the sky to the east. I am surprised at how thickly widespread the fug appears. I can even smell it which, given the wind direction, makes no sense. I turn and peer westward. Sure enough, the air that way has become hazy also. I can’t help feeling a little unnerved: blazes to the east, blazes to the west; me in the middle. I gaze at the clear north sky for reassurance.
I then hear something which makes me angry to a level that even the irritation of a galeforce nor’ west wind cannot achieve.
In the radio’s 5:30 news broadcast it comes as no surprise that ‘bushfires on the Canterbury Plains’ are leading news; the reasons for the fires however, ‘authorised burn-offs’, make me insane with rage.
Authorised burn-offs..? On a day where galeforce north westerly winds were predicted..? Who would be stupid enough to do anything fire-related on a galeforce nor’ west day? Are you serious? Shit, just plough your bloody stubble back into the ground and be done with it.
No, the farmers responsible for those out-of-control fires ought to be shot – volunteer fire crews from throughout Canterbury were pulled out of their day-jobs to risk their lives and douse your idiocy.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by A Dick-Ede
Photography by Paul Ureddin