Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

The Start of Summer

The past week has been so hot that my sleeping and working schedule has vanished. I have been unable to concentrate during the worst of the heat, so I have tried to use that time to sleep. This means that I am awake when it is cool enough to think, but tired from bad sleep. Welcome to summer in Australia.

This is the first true summer I will spend in Canberra. On the plus side, the nights are quite cool here, so we do have a few hours of relief. On the down side, I am hopelessly unprepared for the worst of what summer might bring.

In Melbourne, I always had a plan for the fire season. The fire warning websites were bookmarked on my computer, and I would check them daily so that if danger approached I would have a fair warning. The plan was to bundle the animals into the car and take them somewhere safe. For a city that wraps around a bay, this is a fairly easy plan to follow.

Now that I am in Canberra, my plan is useless. Fleeing to the beach would take three hours instead of ten minutes. I do not know where the safe places to hide are in this city; Canberra has previously been ravaged by bushfire in a way that my home in Melbourne was protected from. It is also an inland city, which means there is potential for us to be ringed in by fire.

When I wake up in the morning, I quickly glance out the window and see if there is smoke in the sky. I taste the air when I walk outside. If our neighbours are smoking outside, I feel a brief flutter of anxiety. The threat is real; one only needs to look at how much of Tasmania is already burning to know that we are in for a bad season.

Our plan is to flee if a fire comes close. A rental property is certainly not worth my health and safety, nor that of my partner. With that decision made, we are then faced with all the possibilities to plan for. If the call to evacuate comes while my partner is at work, does he return home first or do I collect him on my way out? What do we save? What do we abandon without a second thought?

We have decided to keep the petrol tanks in the cars full; I do not want to stop for petrol with a fire raging 5km away. My partner has pruned the trees that overhang our roof, so that if they catch on fire they will not drop burning branches onto the building. We keep chilled water in the fridge so that we have something to take with us if we need it in a hurry.

Do I feel prepared? No, but this is better than nothing, and it is as good a place to start as any. Am I overreacting? It is impossible to say; tomorrow has an Extreme Fire Danger rating, and several fires are already burning in the area. I would prefer to overreact and feel foolish than to minimise the threat in my mind and be caught by it.

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