We're in regular touch with one of our well known former colleagues, Ray Sousa, who keeps us informed from time to time about activities in his part of the world -  that is "Down Under" in Western Australia.  Ray was supposed to have retired a while back but as expected, he doesn't know the meaning of the word, and he seems to be just as busy as ever as a Ranger and volunteer whenever there is an emergency to tackle.

Ray has just sent us this report on a triple wammy that struck "Down Under" last week  - A Cyclone, a series of Bush Fires, and a further outbreak of Covid-19.  He're Ray's latest report:-

 

"I understand that we in the ' Wild West' might have received  international attention during the last week and you might be wondering what is going on ' Down Under’!  Some of you might remember asking, "After 2020 what else could possibly go wrong?”  My reply was, " cyclones, bush fires, and a spread of the virus, all at the same time ".  Well we had them ALL here in Western Australia in one week !

Since the end of 2020 'fire bugs' in our area have kept us on our toes.  We’ve had very hot days with strong winds.  One local fire kept me busy for a week. Our air conditioner dying the last day of 2020 didn’t help the situation. It was replaced  3 weeks later .

On the afternoon of Sunday 28th January the Premier of West Australian announced a security guard at a quarantine hotel had tested positive for the UK strain of the Covid virus.  Effective 6PM the metro area was going into "lock down".  Declared essential workers and going to the shops or doctors  were the only reasons people could go out and they had to wear masks.  Pat and I rushed around getting masks to our volunteer welfare members.  We also had to ensure that we fitted the definition of "essential workers".

In the meanwhile a cyclone developed in the north  and eventually crossed the coast with heavy rain and strong winds. I will give more information on this later. On Monday afternoon there was bushfire at  Wooroloo, east of Perth.  We also continue to have our local smaller bush fires; and did our important volunteer duties as usual.  On the home front " Jessie - Belle" (Ray and Pat’s faithful dog) had to go to the vets to have some teeth removed.  She spent the night and they identified other health issues which we hope can be sorted out without surgery.  She is now home feeling sorry for herself, but happy to be where she belongs. 

Needless to say due to heat and strong winds the Wooroloo fire grew in size.  Help came from all parts of the State and additional aircraft from the  ' East '. In my Support Team's case we worked 12 - 16 hour shifts.  Most of my shifts started at 4 AM .  I often saw the sun rise and set the same day.  The fire is now under control after burning 10,822 hectares; twice the size of Bermuda.  Officially 21 aircraft and 243 trucks fought the fire. Besides fire fighters there were hundreds of support people including Police, SES, Medical Teams, Vets, Utility Officers etc.   

At the command centre I worked at one stage we had over a thousand people registered. There were 3 field command Centres, plus additional staff at the State Emergency Services Head Office.   Basically Command Centres were mini-cities set up in recreation grounds. Evacuation Centres were set up for those in the affected areas. Those of you who know the area , appreciate how steep the hills are.  At last count 86 homes, a large number of vehicles including at least one fire unit  were destroyed.  A number of people, mostly firefighters, were injured; but to my knowledge no-one was seriously hurt; and thankfully no one was killed. 

It is always sad when homes, businesses, properties, animals etc are lost; but the situation could have been a lot worse if  emergency services had not been so professional and the public had not cooperated. 

As usual the backbone of this operation was volunteers from all ages and walks of life. The wearing of masks and trying to social distance is what was different about this fire.  I believe despite the extra discomfort we adopted extremely well.  For those who are asking, yes at least two other Bermudians families were affected by the fire.  An 'older couple' were evacuated, and Pat was contacted by a young couple who lived in the danger zone and fought the fire. Pat will be checking on them shortly to confirm they are Ok.  

Most of Perth was affected by thick smoke and falling ash.  Fortunately for us we are 40 minutes drive south of the nearest point of the  fire and the main winds were from the east, so we missed out on most of the smoke..

Last night most of the lock down restrictions had been lifted.  Among those staying for a while are the wearing of masks.

By Australian standards this was  "a little BBQ"!  For example Boddington fire was 80,000 Hectares and Warona  69,000 hectares.  Of course whenever a bit of bush or house is destroyed it is a sad occasion, but we do a pretty good job trying to help victims recover .   We appreciate your prayers and concerns.

Now back to that dying cyclone, it is now approaching Perth as a storm.  We are hoping it will bring much needed rain without the strong winds.  So much for one week in the " wild west ".

I am now off to try to get some sleep, watch cricket and prepare for my next adventures. 

 

UPDATE - 9th February 2021

Hello again Roger, 

After a week of fires, pandemic shut down, and a cyclone I am trying to catch up. Further to the general information I sent out to you and a number of people I can report the cyclone destroyed roads and farms in the north of the State. 
On the home front we had rain water coming in from the manhole of our ceiling.  As I suspected when our air conditioner was replaced a tile was not put back correctly.   A young volunteer from the SES [ State Emergency Services] fixed the problem in 2 minutes.  No real damage. Jessie-Belle is recovering from having most of her teeth removed and is on a costly diet that hopefully dissolves her kidney stone.  If not that can be another costly operation.  My savings are quickly disappearing.

 



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