Bushfires burned out of control on the island state of Tasmania yesterday, with up to 600,000 people killed and many others missing from their homes. The devastation was total in some areas as entire populations lost their homes. Experts say most of these victims will never build a house again. Thick black smoke turned day into night in various locations, and firefighters worked desperately to save anyone they could, despite being inches from deadly fires themselves. Possibly 4,000 homes were destroyed in Hobart alone, and police were on the lookout for looters throughout the night. One witness, a World War 2 veteran, described the scene at his former home as "the worst thing he'd ever seen in his life."
Bushfires wiped out the entire state in 1967, at least according to a Time Magazine article. I lost all faith in that magazine when I found an old issue as a teenager, and read how devastated the entire island was in 1967, how Tasmanian industry was wiped out and would never recover, and how bare the island now was. But in fact, horrific though the 60's bushfires were, they only covered an area of 2,642 sq km, or about 3% of the state. And it's with this paragon of reporting style as my model that I wrote for you the above account of what the bushfires did in Tasmania yesterday. The amazing thing about my story above is… every word is true. But not necessarily in the way you think.
Some parts of the bushfires yesterday weren't being controlled, while firemen worked on other parts of the fire instead. No people were killed - zero is certainly in the range of numbers up to 600,000. Across the state, people were missing from home because they were at work, school, etc as normal. Where the fires had burned down trees, the devastation was total, and the animal populations which lived in those trees lost their homes. They will never rebuild, because animals don't build houses. At the base of any of those fires, a few inches from the ground, smoke made it very dark, and also inside trees, etc. Firefighters always work to save whoever they can in any fire situation. Fire is deadly if you're caught in it, and every firefighter is somewhere within a million inches of a fire. No homes were destroyed in Hobart, though there is always a possibility that could happen. And police keep a watch out for burglars, looters, etc 24/7 every day of the year, fires or not. The World War 2 veteran, who never went overseas and served in a recruiting office in Melbourne for the whole war, went for a drive to where his home used to be 30 years ago, it had nothing to do with the fires, he just sold it back then. When he got there he saw two dogs engaging in… well, anyway, he said it was the worst thing he'd seen in his life.
And there you have it, a prime example of how the News can be true and untrue at the same time. Thanks, Time Magazine, for teaching me this important skill, and keep up the crappy work.
The 1967 Tasmanian Bushfires
Bushfires in General