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Ash Wednesday ©

As I am typing this a large part of Victoria in Australia is on fire. We have had the worst drought in living memory and worse is yet to come. This piece I have written was in memory of Ash Wednesday 1983 when fires raged for over a thousand miles over Victoria and South Australia.

My brother in law, Drew Wallace, a member of the Versatyles originally from Hamilton, owned a stud farm which he had built himself, in an area called Bullengarook. The farm was under threat and almost everyone in the area had been evacuated. He decided to stay and fight the fire with a high powered pump and hose using water from his dam.

The fire burned down all the properties behind him and got as far as his back fence, before it turned and headed for the town of Macedon which was devastated. I fear we may see the same again before this summer is over.

Thomas Matthew Edgar
Melbourne, Australia
1980's

No sign of rain for weeks on end,
The farmlands scorched bone dry.
A strange black cloud like a devil's shroud,
appeared in the clear blue sky.

It travelled in from the Western plains,
and turned day into night.
This cloud was neither smoke, nor rain,
but the land itself in flight.

A hundred years of work and care
gone - top-soil turned to dust,
stripped to the bones of the barren clay,
the land had died of thirst.

The wind increased from out the West.
The power lines madly swinging,
conductors clashing to a lethal dance,
The sparks were wildly flinging.

The trees caught fire, the flames wormed down
and lit the grass beneath.
They then spread out from the base of the trees
in the form of a deadly wreath.

The blast gained strength from out the West
across the dry plains ripping.
With furnace heat it fanned the flames.
The dragon's fangs were dripping.

Swept by the gusting westerlies,
the hungry tongues were licking.
Insatiable with hateful greed,
their random paths were picking.

The news was broadcast through the state.
the people rose to war,
the CFA, the SES,
the "Sally Ann's", and more.

The massive plumes of smoke rose up
to join the thick black dust.
The volunteers came out as one,
for they all feared the worst.

From the forests to the farmlands,
and the tourist coastal towns,
From the Grampians to Mount Macedon,
the flames spread overground.

The fire trucks they came out in force,
the beaters formed a row,
standing - shoulder touching shoulder,
they faced the common foe.

They numbered in their thousands,
they ranged from young to old.
Fathers, Mothers, Sons, and Daughters,
fought - the fire to hold.

As the flames became inferno,
with a hellish searing heat,
the women, children, and the old,
were sent to safe retreat.

All through the night--the fire raged,
the volunteers fought on.
"Back-burn,", they cried, "while there's a chance!"
they fought until the dawn.

The flames came racing up the hills
the back-burn flames crept down.
"Fight fire, with fire," arose the cry
"for we must save this town!"

They fought on through from dawn to dusk,
they fought like men possessed.
Exhausted, scorched, and blackened souls,
red eyed but still obsessed.

To stop the fire and not give in,
to stop it in its tracks.
But the blaze was more than men could hold,
it slowly broke their backs.

The flames they were unquenchable,
the fire it would not turn.
From up and down the line the cry,
"We'll have to let it burn!"

Both Cockatoo and Macedon,
surrendered to the call.
The bravest human efforts,
were just no match at all.

"Evacuate - the town is lost,
it's lives we now must save.
Grab what you can, but get out now,
or this will be your grave."

The holocaust with brutal lust,
consumed all in its path.
Armageddon was at hand,
a blackened aftermath.

The nightmare may subside with time,
the mental scars may mend,
for some though sadly it's been found,
the pain will never end.

There's children aged a lifetime.
In less than just a day,
their toys and pets lost to the flames.
We only now must pray.

That healing hands of time will soothe,
restore their childhood dreams,
give them again a place to play
mid trees and flowing streams.

That families with their house and homes,
the farmer with his lands,
are stronger now for going through
these fateful shifting sands.

Remember
now, the
ones
we
lost,
this was their funeral pyre.
Ash Wednesday
was a
fearful
day,
the
day
their
world
caught
fire.



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