This has been a wretched few months, ladies and gentlemen.  For those of you who can bear to read about it, I will probably share some of my personal story in my forthcoming January Changing Seasons post.  Fear not though, there will be moments of joy to help with the reading.  Not that I’ve started writing the post yet as I am waiting for a moment of calm.  But for now, welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.

Since last Friday, our car was damaged and my garden destroyed by hail (photos in future posts).  This was nothing compared to the damage experienced by others.  The event was deemed a catastrophe by the insurance industry.  Then today, many regions in southern New South Wales (a state of Australia) and Canberra were subjected to gale force winds that again whipped up fires on the south coast and in the alpine regions and caused new fires to start, including one on the other side of my hometown (see here).  As it happened, my son was also visiting the south coast to assist in a university research project.  By the time I managed to get in contact with him, the research team had decided to beat a hasty retreat, evacuating just before roads in the area were closed. They made it home safely this evening.  Unfortunately, not everyone made it home safely today.

Today, three American aircrew died when the C-130 Hercules air tanker they were flying, crashed during water-bombing operations in the Snowy Mountains (see here).  The tanker, owned and operated by Coulson Aviation, a Canadian company, was contracted by the NSW government to provide air support services.  The cause of the crash is not yet known.  Understandably, Coulson has grounded its large air tankers.  Some Americans may recall that another C-130 water-bomber crashed in California in 2006 (or was that 2002?).  I am not for any moment suggesting that there is a link between these two tragedies.

Many people are grieving this tragedy.  The shock and trauma of these bushfires has now spread across continents.  Three people went to work, left their country for months on end and they won’t be returning home.  Everyone in Australia sends their condolences to the friends and families of those whose loved ones died today.  We are deeply sorry for your loss.

What song could I possibly choose to pay tribute or to comfort that would not be trite? None, ladies and gentlemen.  Absolutely none.  I can only think of one tune that would half way decently convey the sorrow for the lives lost and our gratitude for those who sought to help Australians.  But it is, what it is — Vaughn Williams’  The Lark Ascending.  The composition was based on George Meredith’s  1881 poem

[Extract] Such wooing as the ear receives
From zephyr caught in choric leaves
Of aspens when their chattering net
Is flush’d to white with shivers wet;
And such the water-spirit’s chime
On mountain heights in morning’s prime,
Too freshly sweet to seem excess,
Too animate to need a stress;
But wider over many heads
The starry voice ascending spreads,
Awakening, as it waxes thin,
The best in us to him akin;
And every face to watch him rais’d,

That’s what we do, isn’t it?  In the midst of a firestorm? We look skyward for … help.  What a terrible irony.  A senseless, terrible, heart-wrenching irony.  And loss.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

50 thoughts on “More Sad News From The Fire Front

      1. I was concerned that this story wouldn’t appear on our news because of the current focus on the Impeachment hearings. Thankfully, this tragic event received appropriate coverage and concern. We are all united in sadness and concerns about the hardships you are all facing.

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  1. I was grieved to read of the C-130 tragedy yesterday. I must say Tracy that I love the bright little robin that heads your post, you have some real beauties. Our robin is cute but not at all colourful.

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  2. Dear Tracy this very sad loss of the lives of those three brave American air crew fighting wild fires in Australia, brought to mind this sonnet by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Royal Canadian Air Force, called ‘’High Flight”!
    Officer Magee died in action in 1941. This poem has become his eulogy and the eulogy for many others.

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  3. I was thinking about you yesterday after I read about the crash and the fires so close to Canberra. It does seem as if the bush capital is having a very bad time recently. If it were only politicians that lived there I’d call it karma but it’s hurting ordinary people too.
    I just shook my head over the crash, how much more tragedy must there be? I feel so sad for their families but also concerned about the impact the loss of these plans will have on the fires. It’s been raining here in Sisters Beach. Heavy, continuous rain for more than a day. I can only hope that other parts of the state and the country get the same.

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    1. I think it has been a shock to everyone, Vanda. Thanks for the comment and the concern. We would give a lot for some decent soaking rain. The rain gods are being very cruel with us at the moment.
      Tantalising. We’ve had lots of thunder and a few spots but nothing substantial. Enjoy your rain. I will live vicariously.

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  4. Such a tragedy, so sad that it was 3 men far away from home and their families. That is a beautiful piece of music you have chosen Tracy, I can visualise the skylark from my youth in UK as I listened to that beautiful young girl play it. Sorry to hear about your garden

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    1. I do hope they discover the cause of the crash, Pauline. The families of the men are sure to want, and they deserve, answers. The people at the ATSB are real professionals.
      I’m sorry for my garden too. My crepe myrtles were late flowering this year and were just about to bloom. I’m sad because the few bees I’ve seen could have done with the nourishment.

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  5. It’s almost too hard to make a comment considering the dark days we find ourselves in. It was devastating news about the American crew, and now some more firefighters have been hurt down on the South Coast. Your music is some comfort though, Tracy.
    I’m sorry about your shredded garden. The hailstorm was certainly ferocious, and yet we have friends who live in Lyneham and received 4 mm along with a few small hailstones.
    It was a terrible day here yesterday with a new fire to the north bringing smoke to mingle with the red dust, both being blown along by the strong wind. I was glad when the day was over.

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    1. I empathise, Jane. Yesterday was a shocker. I hope the fire north of you is contained now. It looks like next week is going to be a hot week but hopefully the winds won’t be too bad. Like you, we could do with some rain. I hate to hurry time, god knows we seem to be running out of it so quickly, but I will be so glad when this horrendous summer is over.
      Take care. I hope there is something flowering in your garden to cheer you up. I saw a spinebill today. Hooray! 🙂

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  6. The fires and other freakish weather events in Australia also makes the headlines here in South Africa daily, and our thoughts and prayers do go out to you all! Relieved to know that your son made it back home safely! Tragic to hear of the Hercules-crash over the radio yesterday, and so sorry to read now of the damage you suffered to your car.

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    1. Thank you, Dries. That is very kind of you. Many people are working tirelessly to keep us safe and for that I’m truly grateful. The car is the least of my worries. It is my sons’ car and it already had a few dings in it. A few more won’t matter. So many have lost homes, loved ones and livelihoods and the loss of precious ecosystems is distressing to all. I am sure once things settle down, Australians would welcome visitors like yourself to share in our recovery. You and your family would love it, Dries.

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  7. It is so tragic that those trying to contain fire lost their lives. Sometimes the bad times seem to go on forever. I am sorry for your car and garden but good to know about your son. That’s a lovely tribute, Tracy. I feel horrid that I can just wring my hands helplessly from afar.

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    1. I’m fine where I am, Tazzie. The Canberra fire was on the other side of town. I was concerned for friends though. We are just waiting for the next onslaught and more precious habitat to be burnt. Forecast temp of 41c next Saturday. Joy. The plane crash just topped off a thoroughly horrendous day.

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      1. It just keeps going on for you all down there I do know how that feels the worry of not knowing and concerns for friends (I do hope they are ok). The heat is horrendous for ACT and hard on the fire fighters. The smoke is also so hard to take constantly. I noted today it 38dC. Yes the tragedy of the plane crash just awful awful.

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  8. I live near where the C-130 that went down in 2002 was based, just outside the town of Minden, Nevada. Known locally as “Tanker 130”, it had just made a retardant drop defending the small town of Walker, California, about 35-miles south in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. Locally, I remember once watching the plane being hit by lightning while making drops in the mountains during a thunderstorm, and looking up at its red-streaked belly as it flew just overhead. A new monument to the three crew was erected just last August, adjacent to the crash site.

    The cause of the crash was determined as metal fatigue, and the US military subsequently recommended that C-130s not be used for such civilian operations. So it surprised me to hear that the flight crew who died in Australia were flying one. I don’t know the details of the crash, but the flight crews work these aircraft for everything they’re worth. Courageous, skillful and selfless. My heart goes out to all of the lives affected by this tragedy, and by the fires these men were fighting.

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    1. That’s really interesting. Thank you for the insight. I imagine it would be incredibly dangerous for a plane to be struck by lightening at very low altitude. These firestorms create their own weather, including lightning, so it is a scenario ripe for disaster. This accident has brought that into stark reality for many Australians.

      The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will be conducting an investigation so I guess all will be revealed soon for everyone’s sake, but most especially the families of the flight team, as well as those who continue to put their life on the line flying the water bombers.

      My husband is a bit of a nerdy plane buff. His immediate reaction was that those planes are not built to withstand such stresses, eg. the rapid descent and ascent under a full load over and over again. We cannot have those brave, selfless people flying planes that are not fit for purpose and/or long past retirement age. My husband also wondered whether the plane was shipped over here in parts and reassembled (as happens with helicopters) or whether it island hopped over. It seems many things can go wrong. Also, all the flight crews across the fire fighting fleet must be exhausted. There has been no let up to these fires, I hope something good comes out of this tragedy, like ensuring crews have the best tools for the job and we do all we can as a nation to ensure that we do not place people in needless danger by compromising our earth systems and over-burdening those engaged in protecting life, property and our wildlife sanctuaries. That is my hope. Still, unforeseen accidents happen but rarely is there nothing to learn from those accidents. It is a terrible loss.

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    2. Lightness traveling that is horrendous. It does seem strange that metal fatigue was determined and US Military recommended they be not used. I guess recommendations is only that and what a company decides is going to be on their heads, if it is found to be a similar case. It bothers me when things such as this may be ignored. I am jumping the gun in saying that. We will have to wait for the findings of the crash investigations. Sigh. It will not make it any easier on the families who are grieving now.

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      1. Hello Tazzie. The crash in 2002 happened right after the aircraft had dropped a first half of it’s load at the bottom of a canyon. As it pulled up from the drop still carrying the remaining load of fire-retardant, the wings separated from the fuselage. The crash was filmed by a resident in Walker. As I recall, there had been a similar crash of a C-130 in 1994 (?) in the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California, also due to metal fatigue of a wing spar. So after it was found that metal fatigue had caused the structural failure in 2002, the recommendation was made to remove C-130’s from commercial firefighting service because they required a level of maintenance and inspection not available to non-military aircraft. I’ve never seen a C-130 in firefighting service since, although I know that the Air National Guard can equip their C-130’s with a modular system for firefighting.

        Of course, this was eighteen years ago, and things may have changed. And I don’t know any details of the crash in Australia, so it may very well have been due to something entirely unrelated. It’s an unfortunately, inherently risky occupation. It just struck me as odd when I heard that a C-130 was being used for firefighting.

        As an aside, all of the locally stationed firefighting aircraft are presently helicopters. My husband filmed an Air National Guard CH-47 practicing a local pick-up and drop a few years back [replace the (DOT), and ignore the title]:
        youtube(DOT)com/watch?v=Kjp52Acu9Ow

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      2. During our fires here in the Huon Valley late 2018-mid 2019 the sound of helicopters was out daily accompaniment to life. Picking up buckets of water and flying dropping it I filmed it and shot photos. All my neighbours say they do what I do and look at any helicopter when we hear their distinctive noise. Thank You for all the information.

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    1. Thank you, Darren. We are a bit on edge in Canberra at the moment as a fire has started in our wonderful national park. That is distressing in itself, and then of course there is the chance that it could swing around and head toward the city.

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