February 22, 2009 – National Day of Mourning
Today the nation mourns the deaths of 209 victims of the Victoria bushfires. The ceremony in Melbourne was the main venue, but in cities and towns across Australia thousands of others bade farewell to people who were caught in the firestorm.
At the same time, a collective intake of breath can be felt. Heat conditions frighteningly similar to those that sparked the fires are heading toward Victoria once again.
The sympathy of people in Western Australia and South Australia is tinged with awareness that the bush in those two states is equally vulnerable. Western Australia does a better job of regular, controlled burning, but high temperatures and hot winds can turn tinder-dry bush into an inferno with just one electrical spark, one tossed cigarette, or one fiendish gesture of an arsonist.