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Weekend Wanderings – A Burnt Country

It is Australia Day today, the day that we are supposed to celebrate what it means to be Australian.  I have spoken in previous years about how controversial it is, though it has more to do with the date I think.  A day in our history that meant one whole race of people lost their home, while a new people took it over with no regard to the true owners.  I don’t want to say anymore on that now.  I had thought I would do a post on lots of things that are Australian, but then yesterday I was taken out to the back of beyond to photograph something that is a real reality for many Australians, and one I have spoken of before, bushfires.

LeanneCole-mallee-20140125-7852Floods and fires are probably the two biggest naturally occurring disasters in Australia and they can affect any part of the country.  The week before when we in the Southern part of Australia were experiencing the hottest heatwave on record, there were parts, many parts of those same areas that were on fire.  Most of the fires that happened were caused by lightning strikes.  Lightning is not your friend when you live in a very dry country.

For the most part the fires are out, but there are some areas that are still smouldering and with the temperatures set to go up again next week, the CFA are keeping an eye on some parts, in case they cause new fires.

LeanneCole-mallee-20140125-7858The fires were near Yaapeet, in Victoria’s west, they burned lots of parklands, in and around Lake Albacutya, and then continued to north where some are still burning now.  There was a place I was hoping to get to to take some photos, but I have now found out it is closed because of fires.

A local from Yaapeet, Jonesy, took me out with his wife, Ros, it is so much better seeing an area with locals.  Jonesy had been up there fighting the fires so he had a pretty good idea where we could and couldn’t go.  I have to admit I am a complete novice when it comes to this sort of thing.  It certainly opened my eyes a lot.  Take the above image, the tree is fine, but the base of the tree is all burned, apparently that is because the fires is very close to the ground.

LeanneCole-mallee-20140125-7867Another weird thing too was how it would burn some areas and not others.  I don’t know if you can see in the above image, in the distant there is a green patch, an area that wasn’t burned.

LeanneCole-mallee-20140125-7875Because of the area this is the only house that was lost, though it was an empty house and no one was living in it. It is very strange how it burns, and then a few metres out the back the fire stopped.

LeanneCole-mallee-20140125-7880 Then you see this place and the fire went all around, but didn’t burn the shack, or the outside dunny on the right.  All the trees are burned.  I wonder if it is the fibro that the shack is built with, and the amount of asbestos that is probably in it.

LeanneCole-mallee-20140125-7884Jonesy has a little bush retreat not far from the previous shack.  He has spent years building little shacks, outdoor kitchen, there were a few caravans, but now it is all gone, the fire burned the lot.  I have lots of photos, but will show them in a gallery.

Seeing where the fires went was real eye opener.  One of the things that I did find overpowering was the smell.  It was everywhere, in some places very strong.  I know this is probably a depressing subject for Australia Day here, but it is a reality for many, and with more hot weather predicted in the week to come many people are living with their precious items packed near the front door and hoping the call to evacuate never comes.

Here is a gallery with many more images.  I have put some explanations under some of them.

99 Comments
  1. Great series; thanks for sharing!

    January 26, 2014
    • You’re welcome thank you.

      January 26, 2014
  2. Stay safe our country is facing the same 😦

    January 26, 2014
  3. I have the same thoughts on the American Indians – the true Americans. We Europeans took their land. My kids’ mother is 1/2 Cherokee and taught me much about these things.

    January 26, 2014
    • I studied a lot about it here too, I completely understand where they are coming from.

      January 26, 2014
  4. Leanne, I honestly don’t know what to say. These photos are great but the sadness I felt in seeing what bushfire does, well it just welled up putting tears in my eyes. Living in such a dry land must be hazardous at times, and seeing these pictures, surely says it is.

    Thank you for sharing these pictures. I’ve never lived anywhere where it is so hot, so to see this, is quite shocking. And sad.

    January 26, 2014
    • I think it is good that feel that way Amy, I would be worried if you weren’t affected. Thank you.

      January 26, 2014
  5. A nice bit of photojournalism. It’s amazing how you can see green trees or bushes surrounded by burned-out areas, even right next to them.

    The sand hills look like an interesting place. I have always had an affinity toward sandy places, especially if they are something other than totally flat. A guy could get lost in the area of the fires, as there are no landmarks to judge one’s location.

    I assume a dunny is a shed.

    The photos you had explanations at the bottom, unless the displayed photo was one of the larger ones, only displayed the first three or four words. I don’t know if that’s a function or problem of Firefox, but there it is. 🙂

    More than a nice job. Well done.

    January 26, 2014
    • It is so weird how it burns one thing but not the other.
      I love the sandhills, but I can only get there is I have can find some one with a four wheel drive who will take me.
      A dunny is an outside toilet, or outhouse, we call the dunny’s here.
      I don’t know why the explanations aren’t working, I use Chrome and they seem fine there. Might be a problem with Firefox.
      Thank you so much Cris.

      January 26, 2014
      • Thanks for the explanation of dunny. It was hard to tell exactly what it was after the fire got through with it. 🙂

        I can certainly imagine one getting stuck in the sand hills easily enough without a four-wheel drive, even WITH one. That’s why they use 4-wheel ATV’s over here when traversing the many sand dunes around this country.

        January 26, 2014
      • You’re welcome.
        I think if I keep doing this kind photography, I might have to get one myself, then again, I don’t know that I would be confident driving in that kind of landscape.

        January 26, 2014
  6. So beautiful and sad what an amazing photo of that burned tree. I also love the green is starting to come back on some of the trees. Amazing photos! 🙂

    January 26, 2014
    • Thank you Michelle, it is quite amazing. 🙂

      January 26, 2014
  7. I like this post a lot ^^. I will have a closer inspection on the whole post (cause it’s quit late for me now) but I really like the pics so far ^^. If I would make the pictures I would make them darker, but that’s the sinister side of me ^^. Plus, who am I to talk, I am just an amateur.

    Just speaking my mind here 😉

    January 26, 2014
    • Thank you, It would have been easy to go dark, but I have just done some simple processing here, but will pick some to work on more when I get home.

      January 26, 2014
  8. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

    Even parched and dry Australia has a natural beauty. I get posts from bat rescues in Australia and they spoke of how many bats they lost from the recent extreme heat wave. Your photos are lovely; you see what you look for.

    You mention lightning, I was hit once and thrown about six to eight feet. My house has been hit hard twice in which we had severe damage. I do not mess with lightning.

    Thank you for this post. 🙂

    January 26, 2014
    • Oh yes, the bats had it really bad during the heatwave, poor things.
      I don’t think I have ever met anyone before that was hit by lightning, sounds like it is really attracted to you. I have never been that close.
      You are welcome, and thank you Jackie, take care. 🙂

      January 26, 2014
      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

        Hi Leanne,

        Here is a post I wrote a while back about the experience. I’ve been told that I draw lightning so any time a storm starts brewing, I get safe quick.

        http://jackiesaulmonramirez.com/2013/01/23/lightning-does-strike-more-than-once/

        January 26, 2014
      • I really want to read this, but I am away and I am using my mums internet, and she is really limited, so I really hope I remember to do it when I get home. If you don’t hear from me, can you please please remind me. I would really appreciate that.

        January 26, 2014
      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

        Sure will. Enjoy your time with your mum. 😉

        January 27, 2014
      • It has been great Jackie, though it might be time to go home. 🙂

        January 27, 2014
  9. How sad. We do see a lot of this on the news and NZ sends over more men to give your men a break. Unless you are actually there you can’t really comprehend just how damaging or selective bush fires can be.

    January 26, 2014
    • I have to admit, I have never really seen it like this, I did see the aftermath of the Black Saturday fires, which were also bad. They can be very selective and do devastating. It is sad, but we know life will come back there, it always does eventually.

      January 26, 2014
  10. Something we’re familiar with here . . . on both counts.

    January 26, 2014
    • It is a sad fact of life for many places in the world.

      January 26, 2014
  11. Great images of the brutal part of our beautiful country! Happy Australia Day Leanne :)Bev

    January 26, 2014
    • Yes very brutal, thanks Bev and Happy Australia Day to you too.

      January 26, 2014
  12. leecleland #

    Glad to see you survived the heatwave, Leanne. These images are stunning and all the more so because of the intense blue sky. Funny how after such a devastating event whether fire or flood, we generally get those blue skies.
    Cris mentioned not being able to see more than 3 or 4 words on the smaller photos – which is true if you only look at them in the gallery. You need to click on the image to see it enlarged to be able to read everything. Just thought I’d mention it as I had the same problem until I worked it out.

    January 26, 2014
    • Yes, I did survive it, was very happy when the weather changed. It is amazing, the blue skies are everywhere at the moment. Thank you, maybe that is what his problem was. I don’t know, I use Chrome and can see them fine. Thank you Lee, more hot weather coming, I hope you are staying cool where you are.

      January 26, 2014
  13. Hi, as far as I like how you present your blog and posts. I would like to ask for help. How do you do that collage photos (the group of photos at the the bottom of your post)? I also like to present some of my photos in that way, but I don’t know how to do it. Does it goes with the theme I use? Or maybe you use another application for it? Or maybe I haven’t discover it yet in wordpress settings.

    Your help will be highly appreciated. Thank you so much.

    January 26, 2014
    • You can do the photos like I do when you add new media and you click on create a gallery, as far as I know, it is available in all themes. Just look for create a gallery.

      January 26, 2014
  14. Great series and post, Leanne. I would never have thought of lightning as the cause. Stay cool.

    January 26, 2014
    • Thank you Richard, yes, lightning, most people think lightning comes with intense rain, but here it doesn’t, we have had lots of thunder storms with no rain at all, hence the lightning starting the bushfires.

      January 26, 2014
  15. I’ve a growing respect for both the Australian landscape and your work Leanne.

    Mankind is as robust as the brushwood in a bush blaze (try saying that after a few drinks…) and we are about as caring and discriminatory as the flame in our actions at times. Good job nature regenerates so well…

    Thanks again

    January 26, 2014
    • Thank you, nature does regenerate and it does it so well here, in a few years you won’t be able to tell that a fire had been in those places. It is an unforgiving environment and one that needs to be respected.

      January 26, 2014
  16. Devastating, the scale is vast and really shows how nature is in charge.

    January 26, 2014
    • It certainly does Gypsy, it really does, I saw more today, somewhere else, it is very sad.

      January 26, 2014
  17. Reblogged this on TIRTANADI and commented:
    pohon

    January 26, 2014
  18. Wow what an eye opener! I’ve often heard how unpredictable bushfires can be, demolishing some properties and completely missing others!

    January 26, 2014
    • It was for me too, and I have heard the same thing, I saw some more amazing things today, so strange, it is a very unpredictable creature.

      January 26, 2014
  19. poppytump #

    It’s hard to comprehend fires on such a scale for me here in the UK Leanne , it’s the same when we’ve seen reports of similar outbreaks in the States .Seemingly unstoppable . I guess people get themselves ready to move out at short notice and that’s the best that can be done . Nature at least does mend in regeneration so much harder for people to rebuild .

    January 26, 2014
    • The scale of fires would have taken out a fair chunk of the UK. In one way these fires were away from populated areas, if there is an up to them, that is probably it, almost no damage to homes. Though very bad for the animals living in the areas. Nature does, it regenerates very well and very fast.

      January 26, 2014
  20. Very interesting set of photos. Probably one of the more different ones of the bushfires that I’ve seen in the media. It’s really interesting to see how the fire burnt some parts of property, but not others. You would be inclined to think that it was at least a bit damp in the bright green bushland area.

    Hope you had a good Australia Day! Nothing much going on here in the city, same old celebrations.

    January 26, 2014
    • Thank you Mabel, I think the media like to concentrate on ones where people lose their homes, this one just burned thousands of acres, but no homes really.
      I was somewhere yesterday where a whole field had burned, and there was a strip down the middle that hadn’t burned, it was so weird. I think the wind has a lot to do with it.
      It was a good day thanks, I went to see some more things in this country. I have to admit I haven’t seen the celebrations in the city before, I always seem to be away.

      January 27, 2014
  21. I certainly don’t miss Australian heat. Or the flies.

    January 26, 2014
    • OMG the flies yesterday were in plague proportions, it was horrendous. They are getting worse. I could live without the heat too.

      January 27, 2014
      • There is no escape from them, if you stood still they’d eat you alive

        January 27, 2014
      • Tell me about them, I have never seen flies like it, they are getting worse and worse.

        January 27, 2014
  22. Great photos Leanne.

    January 26, 2014
  23. I liked your series here very much. I’m really dumb founded at the shack that didn’t burn down. I’ll be keeping an eye on comments to see if anyone has any insight. Very strange, thank once again for sharing.

    January 26, 2014
    • I think many of us are dumbfounded by the shack as well. I do think it might have been the asbestos in the fibro, it probably couldn’t catch light.
      Thank you.

      January 27, 2014
  24. A haunting series of images Leanne.
    I had first hand experience of a wildfire when I was in South Africa. I was quite young so things always seem to be slightly out of proportion but it was terrifying. Writing about ti now I can feel the heat, hear the roar and smell it as though I were there ….

    January 26, 2014
    • I am glad to say I have never experienced one, don’t think I would like that, but the aftermath is enough. I can imagine how terrifying it would as a small child.
      Thank you Noeline.

      January 27, 2014
  25. Leanne,
    Actually almost appropriate post for Australia Day – The death of one land leads to a rebirth of another – the areas charred by fire will regrow to something new after the great loss just as modern Australia has done over the injustice to the aboriginals. Hey, it is the same here in America – I’ve traveled the back roads of the modern West and seen the appalling conditions that our native people live in – the unjust cycle of life.

    January 26, 2014
    • Thank you Robert, I thought is was worth trying, it is a real thing for many people at this time of the year, and they are predicting more fires to come as the temperatures are set to soar again. There is always new growth which is something we don’t worry about. I think the biggest issue here is that our government treat indigenous people like they are children and can’t make decisions for themselves.

      January 27, 2014
  26. Great images Leanne. Australia has certainly had some ‘amazing’ weather, it must be terrifying for those who have to run from the fires. There is strange beauty in images of desolation and decimation,

    January 27, 2014
    • I agree Angie, there is a strange beauty in the images, something I want to explore, so you might see some of these again.
      We have been having our share of extreme weather, sounds like we have a lot more to come. Thank you.

      January 27, 2014
  27. The controversy you refer to regarding Australia Day is the same as that of Canada Day. I know where you’re coming from. The sensitivity of discussing it occasionally warrants extreme discretion and diplomacy when you are so tempted to say so much more.

    January 27, 2014
    • Thank you, it is quite controversial here and every year there are protests and people doing things, it won’t change.

      January 27, 2014
  28. I had seen some of the fires on the TV….having lived in San Diego for 20+ years, I know how horrific the fires can be. Southern California goes through the same thing…..one thing most people don’t realize is that past the damage, it’s a good two years before people can get back into rebuilt homes in Southern California….the smoke in an urban area hangs around for days….ash fall out , etc. I know this is natures way, man has just built up in these areas…

    January 27, 2014
    • There are many things, I agree, that people don’t get. The smell hangs around too. Here, we will start to see new growth in spring, so things will start growing again. In 5 years, maybe 10 you will hardly know there had been a fire. Thanks Kirt.

      January 27, 2014
  29. Fire, perhaps the most destructive of all of nature’s tools. I don’t believe any one truly understands it enough to explain how it changes direction. We have similar issues with wild fires in the states. My best wishes to all of you and hope the fires continue to spare lives. Thanks for the wonderful images and thanks for liking “Winter comes once more”

    January 27, 2014
    • I totally agree with you, thank you, they were lucky up here, if you can call it lucky that only parklands were destroyed, not good for the kangaroos. You’re welcome.

      January 27, 2014
      • Animals tend to always be the victims of nature and man alike. I have come to think of wild fires (when not maliciously set) to be natures way of ‘cleaning house’. She can be a harsh mistress, but somehow I think perhaps she knows best. 🙂

        January 27, 2014
      • What a great way of looking at it, I like that idea and it seems that that is exactly what happens. Animals are that, that is for sure. They do seem to cope, well the native ones here do, or is it natures way of keeping the numbers down? Interesting concept.

        January 27, 2014
  30. These photos are so interesting, sad and in it’s own way, beautiful. I really can’t explain why, what fire does is really awful. Being from Southern California, we always worried about fires. We lived very close to Palm Springs and the fires would always destroy houses and would get so close to our own. We were glad to be out of there and happy to now be living in Oregon.. the wet state lol!

    January 27, 2014
    • I know exactly what you mean Amanda, it is all those things. Yes, fires can do a lot of damage, and many homes can be destroyed, but luckily this one didn’t do that. I can imagine how glad you were to leave. I would like to try working on some of the images, see what I can do to them, should be interesting. Thank you.

      January 27, 2014
      • I could see you doing some amazing things with these shots 🙂 can’t wait to see them!

        January 27, 2014
      • You are too kind, should be fun though, looking forward to seeing what I can do. Thanks Amanda for the support. 🙂

        January 27, 2014
  31. Reblogged this on dunjav.

    January 27, 2014
  32. There are many parallels between Australia and the US … not just historically but also topographically and meterologically. Those pictures could be of our southwest. Beautiful pictures … sad history. We have the same sad history here and no one wants to talk about it in this country, either.

    January 27, 2014
    • I agree Marilyn, there are many similarities. I have seen much of your history and yes, many, many similarities, perhaps because the invaders all came from the same place.

      January 27, 2014
  33. Leanne,
    It’s always disheartening to see and read about a fires destruction. It amazes me around this time of the year that I read about the bush fires. It seem like a annual occurrence in the last few years! In California we’re no stranger to fires. Here’s a link to a photo narrative I did a while back when the Griffith Park fire started in Los Angeles. It burned a lot of the hiking trails that I used to take, but now it’s looking back to it’s green beautiful self. It takes many years for nature to heal and regrow.
    The process is inspiring to say the least.

    These images were taken a year after the fire.
    http://aimeecandelaphoto.wordpress.com/naturescape/

    January 27, 2014
    • Here the trees, well most of them are used to fire, and they nearly always regenerate, in a few months after some rain, new growth will be all over those trees. Many will sprout out from the bottom. It is bizarre, how they just come back, in about 5 or so years, you won’t be able to tell a fire went through there.
      Thanks for the link, it was interesting to see the photos.

      January 27, 2014
      • Nature is amazing! And that’s what fascinates me when trees, flora, etc. regrow from fires and other natural disasters.

        January 28, 2014
      • It is amazing, I think here too it is because the bushland is used to it, the Aborigines used to burn it off on a regular basis for thousands of years, so it regenerates rather quickly.

        January 28, 2014
  34. Feels odd that there is only a “like” button. It does not convey the proper sentiment…
    You have shown great compassion in the way you engaged with the people and situation. Hopefully it will not be repeated anywhere in Australia this Summer.

    January 27, 2014
    • Thank you, I am glad that came across. I wish I could say with certainty that there will be no more fires, but I am pretty sure there will be, hopefully they will get on top of them quickly. The country is so dry right now. What isn’t already black is brown.

      January 27, 2014
  35. Hi Leanne…..your photos are so true to the reality of my homeland (being an Australian living in Boston) i feel sick in the pit of my stomach for the death and destruction bushfires cause…wildlife, man and environment….though i know there will over time be regeneration
    i was planning on coming back to Australia for three weeks but for medical reasons cannot…so i want to thank you for your blog that is providing me with pictures of both the beauty and treasures of home and also the reality of the suffering caused by these disasters
    regarding the controversy about Australia Day my greatest wish would be that the disasters that afflict the country could somehow unite peoples of all races, indigenous and ethnic backgrounds
    thank you for bringing Australia to me in the northern hemisphere

    January 28, 2014
    • The fires are always horrible, and when they are happening and just after they do seem bad, but, as you said, they do regenerate and so much faster than we think.
      Whereabouts are you from in Australia? I love photographing Australia and would like to venture out more from Victoria at some point, but for the time being I think there is plenty here to take photos of.
      I feel the same as you about Australia Day, it would be nice if something could happen to unite us all.
      You are welcome, nice to hear from you and thank you, I hope you get well enough to travel here soon.

      January 28, 2014
  36. Incredible how fires can be so unpredictable. We have similar kinds of fire here in California, very scary.

    January 28, 2014
    • They can be, so weird, miss whole areas and then be like a pig in other places leaving nothing behind. Too scary for me.

      January 28, 2014
  37. Fires in your country must be terrifying. I really feel for those who lose their homes and possessions, but of course life is the most precious of them all. Floods too are devastating; in England recently a lot of people have lost their possessions in flooding. Very sad for them.

    January 28, 2014
    • We get the floods too and apparently more damaged is done due to floods in Australia than fire, or so I heard a couple of years ago. Though at least floods usually leave buildings there, even if they are very muddy. It is sad, I think we have just started seeing what the fires can do, we have another couple of months of scary hot temperatures yet, and the country is so dry, everywhere is just brown, so I suspect lots more fires to come. Hopefully we want break any records with fires though, I don’t think I want to go through what we went through 5 years ago.

      January 28, 2014
  38. These photos are stunning and emotionally powerful. I come from a fire-prone land, too–the eastern Sierra in northern Nevada–and the devastation of wildfires has been a lifelong source of grief for me. I try to take solace in the fact that the fires allow new generations of plants to germinate. But in the near term, the destruction is most vivid. Thank you for attending to it in your art.

    January 28, 2014
    • I think many people live in similar horrible conditions. it is a scary time, I hate hearing about them on the news. But as you say things then regenerate. Someone suggested natures way of cleaning things out, which it could be, I don’t know. You are welcome, it has been well received and that has been good. Thank you Jennifer, I hear things aren’t great over there now, so you stay safe too.

      January 28, 2014
  39. Stunning pics!

    January 29, 2014
    • I think so as well, really stunning.

      January 29, 2014
  40. Actually, I really appreciate seeing this, Leanne. As someone said, it is photojournalism. I think about you a lot, in Australia, with the heat, extended drought and fires. It was crazy in Sydney when I was there. Felt like the fires were breathing down our throats. It’s a constant threat.

    California is also getting into a long drought too, it seems.

    I’m going to hunt for an explanation of those legs and boots sticking out of the sand in the last one now!

    Good job.

    Be safe.

    January 29, 2014
    • Thank you Nia, it is a scary time for many people and with another couple of months of hot weather to come yet, it is likely that more will burn.
      Those legs and boots are Jonesy’s sense of humour, he put them there, so you see them as you go up to the bush retreat, one of a few things that weren’t destroyed in the fire.
      You stay safe too.

      January 29, 2014

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