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That was the temperature on February 7th where I live near Melbourne, Australia.


Many of you probably heard about our bushfires. (Wildfires to Americans?) This is a bit of my story and a bit of the impact on Scouting. I hope you don't mind me posting this, but it's probably now around the time when the stories will start being written down properly, rather than in the sensational, brief style so loved by the media.


It appears that around 210 people have been killed in the most deadly fires to ever happen in Australia. We don't yet have official details of all the deaths, but inevitably there will be some Scouting people. Certainly many people in Scouting knew people who are now no longer with us. None of my immediate contacts were directly harmed.


Some entire towns were virtually destroyed, so inevitably quite a few Scout Halls have been destroyed. Much of the area we go hiking, camping and skiing in has been burnt. Haven't had the chance to check it all out yet, and some areas are still closed to visitors because officials have still been looking for bodies, and many of the buildings destroyed contained large amounts of asbestos.


Naturally Scouts became heavily involved in the relief effort, collecting donations of goods and money, and sorting and delivering those donations. Many offers have also been made to help in the rebuilding efforts. My own efforts will be mostly at one of my favourite winter venues, the Lake Mountain cross country ski resort. As a ski tour leader I often take Scouting groups there in winter. All but one of the buildings was destroyed there, but the survivor was the main centre of activities. The toilet block has gone, leading several old timers to suggest that well just have to revert to behind a tree. Some of our lady friends arent so sure!


Theres a lot more to tell, but that will do for starters.




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I have been through a number of disasters (mainly hurricanes), but they pale to the degree of absolute destruction which is caused by bushfires. It is truly beyond my abilty to fully grasp. Or hearts and prayers will continue to be with you as you work through the recovery and rebuilding.


Admitedly, I know very little about scouting down under, beyond what I have read from our participants there. But it does sound like you have an active program which is closely tied to your communities. I hope this experience only works to strenthen your program. Be well, and keep us posted.

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Yes, I kept track of it on television and in the online news. From what I saw many of those towns were completely destroyed, very tragic. This, on top of the devastating drought you've been having...those of us on the other side of the world should be thankful for our good fortune. I shudder to think the fires might have been intentional...we've had that experience over here.

But I have a question, is there anything we can do to help you folks out over there? Let us know.

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I am "east coast" and have also seen my share of hurricanes, starting with Donna in 1960. In 1969 my Explorer Post spent Labor day weekend in the mountains of VA helping with Hurricane Camille relief efforts, being airlifted on Huey helicopters into the field where we would hike the river banks searching for survivors. We found victims, but no survivors.


Nothing on the scale of Katrina, or the wildfires of California or Australia, however.


HiLo, good luck to ya...If we can do anything from the other side of the planet, let us know. Our Scouts are always looking for ways to "help other people at all times".

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OldGreyEagle wrote "When I see a person listed as being from "Gulf Coast" offering sympathy to another person who has suffered a natrual disaster, I get a deeper understanding of what is meant by the Brotherhood of Scouting".


I'm not sure where you're from Buffalo Skipper, but I had the great pleasure early last year of visiting Houston and Galveston. To see TV coverage a few months later of waves topping the 17 foot seawall at Galveston, and all that wind, helps put in perspective what we're doing when we're teaching kids skills to use in the great outdoors.


There's a lot of luck in surviving natural disasters, but often too, and certainly with our bushfires, Being Prepared helps a fair bit too. (I'm sure I've herd that term somewhere else!) I have a feeling that this, along with the common sense we hope Scouting people have, had something to do with perhaps a lower proportion of them being hurt in the fires than the general public.


To add some more of my personal experiences......


The fires came to within five miles of my place. Don't know if any of you live in eucalypt tree areas (I know we've kindly exported them to parts of the US), but a big part of the risk is what's called spotting, when flaming leaves and embers get carried by the wind miles ahead of the fire front, to start new fires a long way from the fire fighting effort. We did get dead embers fall here, but nothing worse. It was pretty scary.


As well as the 115 degrees on February 7th, we had winds of over 50 miles per hour and, for the meteorologically inclined, a relative humidity of 6%. That's very, very dry!


The hard bit after February 7th (the worst day) was that the fires didn't go out. Human effort is never enough alone to put them out. We need nature's help. For the year up to March 4th we had only 0.15 of an inch of rain. Then it started to rain a bit. It's safe now, but we spent a month not knowing what might happen next. It's a bit of a clich, but I think I now have some understanding of what it's like being in a war zone. The constant uncontrollable threat.


I work in a high school with 600 kids. The effect of that month on those kids was obvious. School was closed completely on two separate days because it was deemed unsafe to run the buses. Attendance was dramatically affected, and we're still working hard to get the kids back into some sort of learning mode.


February is normally a popular time for Scout camps here, but they just couldn't happen. Big catch ups planned now.


We're all working on getting life back to normal. It's what you do.


Thanks for all the offers of help. Not sure how that could work. Just offering is great, and probably enough!(This message has been edited by hilo)

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Good luck with your rebuilding and hopes to all that they may be safe. Something came to mind that may help the troops there. Would it be possible to 'brother' up with a troop here stateside to help a troop down under recover from this disaster?


A scout is Helpful.



red feather

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