Just now, at 6:05, we were wakened by the local CFA siren. Much of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) is staffed by volunteers, and each town and area has one of those large siren towers. My Niagara friends and my siblings will remember the siren at the Virgil Fire Hall, both in practice (Monday nights?) and to call the volunteer fire force out to whatever the emergency demanded. Then we talk to the kids, because they are now awake as well, and worried. (Although Kai was just dreaming about enjoying a chocolate cake AND brownies...)
First step -- turn on computer, and wait for it to load (mental note: Keep computer on at night); while loading step outside and smell the air -- we can smell smoke this morning, but it's been "cold" this week (morning temps of about 15C) and the cool air keeps the smoke low to the ground -- I believe it's called an inversion; connect to the Internet and check on the local incidents page, and believe it or not, through all this, the information about the calls is uploaded almost as soon as the call is put out. Right now 2 trucks are out at a small fire a few kilometers away -- it doesn't yet say what it is, just lists it as "other".
This volunteer fire force is trained and reay to go, and they are still at the scene of the biggest bush fires, trying to contain them before this lovely cool spell (induced by those terrible south winds on Saturday) becomes another hot spell. The heat, and northern winds, is now in the forecast. So they are hurrying to contain those fires. The army (through its reserve force) is now helping as well, bulldozing areas so there is a fireguard of sorts. But most of this intense work has been done by local volunteers.
Tom and I were talking last night about the community spirit of these small town-like suburbs that dot the bush land and hills outside Melbourne. People made conscious decisions to move away from the "city", and live in these idyllic surroundings. (It often reminds us of our cottage at Vic Beach, with the bird life and the trees... just not the steep hills!) The surroundings include the bush, and steep winding roads, often narrow and surrounded at every step by the tall gum trees. (I still want to upload some pics, but I have to hit the library for that...)
Nicole went to her first Guides meeting last night, and we came home to find the men of the house watching the telethon that was raising money to support the communities that have been razed. Of course they trotted out the celebrities (I couldn't stay up to watch Nicole Kidman, sorry), but all were in on this fund raising and when we went to bed, upwards of $79 million had been donated. Local radio hosts, Hamish and Andy, offered to remove an item of clothing for every $60,000 raised, and were both buck naked (on air), but pics and a video clip were offered to illustrate their fund raising efforts!
Ferny Creek Primary School had a free dress day yesterday (no uniforms) and kids bring money to pay for the privilege of not wearing their unis... the money was donated as well, and their school raised $3500. A local tea room (whoever comes out for a visit will be taken there, believe me, it's GORGEOUS) donated all their takings and wages from Wednesday, and they raised $10,000. So people are diggin deep, even in the midst of the international recession. I think everyone has put themselves in the shoes of the others, and hopefully we can all contribute to the rebuilding in our own small ways.
Easy entertaining. Pickerel Cheeks - This is really such a delighfully simple dish to make. Great local ingredients that shine. Pickerel cheeks (yes, Walleye, to my non-local language puris...