It’s Christmas eve in Australia. In country Victoria it’s 21:00hrs: still light and it’s 25 degrees. We are expecting a high of 34 degrees for Christmas day and suffice it to say that I will struggle to justify an open fire. Because of that slight inconvenience, I usually crank up the aircon to the point that its actually painful to sit in the living room and before long, the family begs me to light the fire. Today, I will refuse of course, because there’s a current fire ban.
I can’t help but thinking that there’s something missing? Have a look back at some of the previous posts to see what my fireplace looks like in full ‘bloom’
Having bleated about my lack of a marsh mellow toaster; last year, a week before Christmas, there was a terrible fire where around 18 houses were lost. The fire started when a cocky slashed the grass in his paddocks: for the non Australian speakers – that’s where a farmer mows the long grass in their fields with a mechanical cutter called a slasher that’s attached to the back of a tractor and when he finished, he rested the slasher on the ground near his barn. The grass was so dry and the slasher so hot that within minutes, the grass caught fire. The farmer had retired for a siesta in his air-conditioned bedroom and then next thing he knew was when the Country Fire Authority (CFA) were knocking on his door telling him to evacuate.
Here’s how it works. On the mount nearby there is a fire watch tower and because of the risk of both the bush and the village going up in flames, whenever smoke is seen at this time of year, the CFA is alerted by the lookout on the hill and the fine volunteers turn out, regardless of the hour or season and battle any fires that threaten us all.
The following picture was taken from a friends deck. He is a little further from the fire front than we were, but he has more elevation. The front was actually about four kilometres away at this point, but it looked felt and smelt a lot closer.
There have been several fund raisers for those who lost their houses and I’m always careful to put some extra in the tin at collecting time just in case its our house that they are flighting to save. I have also to admit to some history with the CFA myself as they have been around to our place, more than once….
It wasn’t a fire ban period or I wouldn’t have done it, but we had a spit roast with a whole pig on it for our son’s leaving party a few years ago and whilst the pit was in our brick courtyard and within an old stone tack room; to be honest, it did generate a fair amount of smoke. Something in fact, rather like the entire Imperial German Navy sailing out of the Kiel canal in 1916. Luckily, the vast majority of the smoke had dispersed by the time the amped up fire fighters arrived on our street. I say luckily because they had hoses, a whole lot of them and they clearly wanted to deploy them. The lack of a target for their desires quickly led to frustration and with the fire watch tower radioing them “it’s there, I just saw soooo much smoke” they knew they were getting warm; pun intended, honestly.
We have a tall stone wall that blocked their view of the offending and by now, sizzling porker and luckily, the smoke had given way to the glowing embers and they were up wind. They couldn’t quite smell the thick garlic and olive oil marinade that I was liberally swooshing all over piggy with that huge wand of rosemary either. Within a few moments of running up and down the street, they quickly overheated and retreated back to the air-conditioned cab and turned the siren on. I smiled and thought that I identified a slightly frustrated tone in that increasing wail.
So, there’s no fire tonight. Not at my house anyway and with all the lumber currently in the garden, the house wouldn’t last long in any case. The laser lights, that were a product of my daytime TV shopping habit, are illuminating the property and it’s time to quieten down the house before Santa approaches. I have finished the last very large G&T of the evening: well, possibly the last.. and its time to scatter the glitter and blow out the candles.