Tragedy of fires puts things in perspective

ALISON ANDREWS says: I wake feeling miserable.

This has been the worst hay fever season anybody can remember.

The streaming nose, streaming eyes and hacking cough are enough to drive a person not usually afflicted by the dreaded allergy season mad.

There is now sympathy for the daughter who says she feels like taking a fork and scratching the painful itch at the back of her throat.

And then there is the angry, red line of bites down one side of the body - I picked rhubarb and carried it inside to de-leaf and poach and was caught in a cloud of aphids that flew from the leaves.

So aphids like rhubarb - and they bite.

Misery guts sits up in bed and gazes around the room.

There is the photograph of my girls when they were at primary school, the battered green-and-white china water jug and dish from grandma's house, my favourite great aunt's two- drawer bedside table, a stack of books waiting to be read.

The three tiny ornaments that sit on the base of the lamp stand - gifts at different times from each daughter worth only a few dollars but precious - suddenly remind me about the state of Tasmania and the guilt sets in.

If there was a towering wall of fire bearing down on our house, roaring like a jumbo jet, what would I grab to take with us as we ran?

What would I miss most afterwards when we returned to find the family house gutted after not having time to run with anything except ourselves?

How lucky am I to be able to sit here in my room, in my house in its leafy, green garden and think about it?

Last week we were complaining about the heat.

This week more than 100 families just down the road at places like Dunalley and Bicheno have had their homes destroyed by fire.

Police are warning there could be Tasmanians who have died in the fires at the weekend as they continue sifting through the ashes, searching for possible victims.

It's up to the rest of us to help now.

Hundreds already have, moved by the scale and speed of this tragedy, even before the fires that have caused so much damage are contained.

Those at the front line have a strong message for the people who will need so much help - send money in preference to goods.

It won't take sorting through by workers at charitable institutions.

Money on essential goods for those who are homeless can also be spent at businesses in the local areas of the fires, which would help keep them going until life becomes reasonably normal again.

The state government has pledged to pay administrative costs for the Australian Red Cross, which is the charity set up to take donations, so people feel comfortable that all the money they give will go straight to those who need it.

There will need to be political power wielded to make sure the money flows swiftly to those who need it and doesn't get tied up in paperwork.

The rest of us also need to take responsibility for ensuring we are as prepared as possible to face bushfires.

That's not just farmers or people living on bush blocks.

Take a look at the pictures of Dunalley after the fires went through to see what can happen in a town by the sea with not a lot of bush close by.

Do you know what you would grab if you had the time to decide before you ran?

Do you have a plan of escape that all the family knows about?

Your house needs to be fire-ready - eaves cleaned, hoses tidy ready to use, long grass and weeds cut down.

That goes for the Launceston City Council too, which looks after the city's street verges, parks and gardens.

Have you noticed the overgrown parks and the weeds and long grass along the streets? It's a disgrace and a fire hazard.

Alison Andrews

Alison Andrews


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