Just before school finished for the holidays the RFS and ‘State Mitigation’ (such a great Orwellian name) undertook a controlled burn in the bush immediately to the south of our suburb. These burns are not usually advertised in any way, except on facebook which means most people don’t know about them. Obviously then, these proscribed or controlled burns usually elicit some level of panic.
We knew about the burn because we know the landholder. However, many did not. In fact, the first we knew that the burn had started was a flurry of frantic text messages from friends in the area – ‘where’s that smoke coming from? what can u see from your place?’
The kid was on the school bus. As it wound its way alongside the river, the schoolkids caught sight of the huge plume of smoke rising out of the bush behind their homes. They all began screaming and crying, and asking the teens on the bus (who had phones) to call their parents to find out if the fire was coming to burn their houses down.
Imagine sitting on a bus with 30 odd kids screaming and crying at the sight of a controlled burn.
That’s the impact of the 2019/2020 fires. I know kids who can’t sleep, still. Kids who started wetting the bed. Kids who became overly worried about every small thing. Then, when Covid came along, these particularly anxious kids were affected particularly badly. Others, often those who hadn’t experienced the fires (many families had left the area over Christmas as the air quality was so poor) mocked and teased the more anxious of their number.
We’re fortunate – our lives are relatively un-touched by the fires. We’re adults, we can monitor and mitigate risk, and had a sense of control over it. We knew, for instance, that we needed to stay awake and monitor the bush behind us for fire, as the RFS comms was not reliable. We also knew that our suburb was one of the safer areas, skirted by a large river that acts as a fire break. Finally, we were prepared to GTFO. We had several options, so if roads were closed there were other ways we could get to the river or the beach. We’d been thinking about this for literally years.
Kids don’t have this adult thinking.