Most of you will have heard of the horrific bushfires which we have been experiencing here in Australia in recent days. Dangerous bushfires are always part of our summer (see more here) , but they are especially bad this year due to a terrible drought we’re experiencing.
There are so many fires burning across the country at the moment but last week the situation flared up particularly to the south coast of NSW where many people were on holidays (vacation) and there were mass evacuations. And this was only one area in Australia under threat!
Last Saturday in the western suburbs of Sydney we had record-breaking temperatures of 48.9C! Many of us were constantly looking up the fire maps to check on the fires in areas where we know well.
These fires are mainly in the rural areas of the country but due to the extensive area of bush burning, the smoke haze in Sydney has been the worst that I’ve ever experienced. Normally we might have one or two days with a little bit of haze throughout a summer, but this year it has been bad for a few days every week since October! I have been receiving lots of messages over the last number of weeks from people concerned for my safety… this smoke haze is the only thing that has directly impacted me to date. But I know of many friends of friends whose properties have been in danger from the fires.
There has been no big fires within the Sydney area this season but there are a lot of bush areas in the valleys between suburbs so it is possible to have bushfires in the city. One fire started in South Turramurra on 12 Nov – this is only a few suburbs away from where I live. Thankfully the fire-fighters were able to contain it quickly. This week I finally got around to visiting the area and as I expected the bush is already starting to grow back!
I wasn’t dressed appropriately (on my way to the gym wearing newish light coloured shoes) and it was a very smoky day, so I just took some photos. And then, after doing some research into how the bush regenerates itself, I did a spread with a number of really quick sketches. (Click on image to view larger)
Although I would prefer to sketch on location, it was good, on this occasion, to do this in the quiet of my home. Sketching always helps me process things and so I felt a lot of different emotions while doing this page – thinking about the scale of the tragedy on one hand and also the amazing design of the native flora.
The Australian bush is remarkable in the way it regenerates itself. Seeds and buds beneath the surface of the tree bark or buried in the soil spring to life within weeks. The colours of the new growth against the darkness of the charred surfaces are beautiful. I intend to return to this area to sketch some more.
The scale of the bushfires this season has been hard to comprehend. I’m not sure of the latest figures but what I can find at the moment: 150 fires still burning in NSW alone, 4.9 million hectares of land burnt (the size of Denmark), 25 lives lost, thousands of houses destroyed and countless wildlife perished. It’s truly catastrophic!
My heart goes out to all the people who have suffered loss and for the Firies who are doing such an amazing job fighting the fires and protecting lives and properties. We all need to pray for rain as the fires are continuing to burn.