Bushfires, good deeds and bad…

As many of you might know, the bushland behind Sydney is currently ablaze.

We’re being told it’s the worst bushfires in nearly 50 years. Certainly there have been a lot of houses lost, tragically – although thankfully I’m not aware of any loss of life.

Jennifer and I live in Mudgee, about 300kms NW of Sydney. We’re not under threat. We’re about 100kms from the nearest blaze.

The media here are beating up the story. Tomorrow is evidently going to be “catastrophic.” They’re expecting high temperatures, raging winds, and the various fire-fronts to join and create a “mega-fire” which could sweep through Sydney’s outlying suburbs.

I suspect none of that will happen.

As a former journalist, I’m well aware how the media creates stories that are intended to incite fear. The Rural Fire Services and the various emergency services help create this fear, to make us all more compliant.

The trouble is that when you cry wolf, as the media has done on so many other occasions, no-one believes the reports when they are genuine, and when life and property could be in very real danger.

Tonight I was watching the news. They played CCTV footage of some kids stealing donation boxes from stores in the Blue Mountains – the affected area. People have been very generous in donating cash, which they have put into these boxes on the front counters of various stores. These young men stole a box which contained about $300.

Not very charitable.

However the tv news report played up their ethnic background, thus implying it was “not Australian,” and hence inciting racial hatred.

That was also not very charitable.

People have been incredibly caring and compassionate during this difficult period – donating everything from cash to food to bedding to furniture – intended for those who have lost their houses and belongings.

And those fighting the fires are extraordinary people. Many of them are volunteers. They are working incredible hours and putting their lives at risk to save property and keep the fires under control.

Today, many more firefighters came from interstate to tackle what might be an horrific few days coming up. I hope not. Embers from the blazes are known to travel 50km-70km and start spot fires in unaffected areas.

Under the right conditions, these bushfires can travel fast, and be truly lethal.

The day after tomorrow I have to drive down to Sydney, through these bushfire areas, to attend a doctor’s appointment – my neurologist – to check on the numbness in my left foot. This numbness appeared during the Camino, and has stayed with me since, although now it’s fading.

I hope that I can get through on Thursday. I will have to drive through the heart of the main bushfire area. Given the geography of the area, there’s no other way to get to Sydney. It’s the only road.

I’ll take my camera…


10 thoughts on “Bushfires, good deeds and bad…

  1. Bill,
    Have been worried about the fires and there location to Mudgee. Be careful on that drive and be very aware of your surroundings. I used to be a volunteer firefighter and know that a small change in the wind can be disastrous.
    We got home from the Camino and Malaga late Thursday night. I am going to be catching up on the 65 or so posts that I have missed and finishing your book. I should be adding at least 65 tics to your blog counter!! Hope to finish the book in the next couple days. Have put your site and book info on my blog Hopefully you’ll get a few more followers. Need to get caught up on you knee problems. On the Camino my knees were irritating and painful at times but now that we are home in cold, rainy Seattle they are killing me. Feels like they aren’t connected quite right. Saw the doctor yesterday for the boob lump I found while in Santiago and it is just a huge cyst and not cancerous.
    We have found out that the problems we were having uploading pictures was not our fault – the Chromebook is defective. Will be uploading a few select pictures at a time of the 3012 that we took. Hope you’ll take a look.
    Have a very safe trip and be aware at all times!!!
    Lynda and Dale


    • Hi Lynda –

      Welcome back! I hope you and Dale are starting reacclimatise back into your regular life – if your life can ever be regular after the Camino!

      Yes, everyone in the fire zones is preparing for a hellish day – with the winds expected to gust to 60kms an hour. Ironically, it rained last night in the Blue Mountains, and a lot of firefighter trucks got bogged!

      Would love to see your photos – such a shame about Chromebook – but at least you have your photos saved.



  2. I wondered how close you were. If you must drive through the area, do you have any protective gear you can throw in the car? I may sound silly, but there’s such an unpredictable element to these. We had them close to Houston and of course California and elsewhere in our West. We lost a bunch of crack firefighters at a brush/forest fire in Arizona this year, and 14 at a motel in Houston and 4 at another fire in Houston. Motorists have had to be rescued in some places, too. Just unheard of! Do be careful, or better yet, postpone your appt a couple of weeks.

    I’ll try to be more cheerful, but this is not a cheery matter. Yes, the photos will be nice so long as you are in no danger.

    Your from the timid, cowardly Texan,


    • Thanks Barbara for your concern.

      The Rural Fire Services here are very conservative, although what I think is admirable is that they’re not demanding mass evacuations, they’re telling people to act on “your survival plan,” but they’re saying make sure you act on it early.

      The next few hours here will determine how bad it is today – winds are due to pick up, and get to 50kms an hour, which of course will rejuvenate the flames, and get them moving again. fortunately there was some rain last night in the Blue Mountains, and around Mudgee too.

      Crazy weather, really!

      Don’t worry, if there is any possibility of danger, the RFS will close the roads!

      But thank you though for thinking of me…



  3. Fire is Birth and Death and to be respected. Myself, I swing between fear and fascination. So my dear friend Bill, put your PGS on high alert on your journey to Sydney. Blessed Be Ingrid


    • Thanks Ingrid.

      I will indeed. Like you, I’m fascinated by fire. Part of me wants to rekindle (if I can use that term in this context!) my journalistic instincts and get into it tomorrow, and get some shots.

      But I gave up chasing fire engines (if I can use THAT term 🙂 ) many years ago.

      Apart from the visit to the neurologist, I have two movies I want to see: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and PRISONERS.

      And tomorrow evening Jennifer and I are having dinner with our three children. That doesn’t happen very often!



  4. Hope the neurologist has some answers for you; it’s always worse when you don’t know why! WOW getting all your kids together in the one place at the one time must be wonderful!! 🙂


    • Hi Britta –

      When your kids get to a certain age and they all lead separate busy lives, therea re very few chances to get them all together.

      Out children’s ages are 31, 28, 25.

      They are gorgeous remarkable people. Jen and I are very proud of them, and enjoy their company whenever we do get together.



  5. Hi Bill,
    Like Barbara said, we in the southwest US are familiar with wildfires, please do be careful!

    I am happy for you and Jen to be able to have all your children around you, enjoy every moment. I arrived back in the States to the open arms of my family.

    My grands are full of questions about the camino and are having a glorious time making fun of the way I’m dressed (pilgrim garb). My grandson is especially enjoying the smelligrino boots – typical 8 year old boy.

    So, Bill I am basking in the love of my family and know that you and Jen can do exactly the same, ENJOY EVERY MOMENT for those moments are precious.



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