Go to blazes: Morons are big­gest bush­fire threat

Herald Sun - - OPINION - CLAIRE SUTHER­LAND CLAIRE SUTHER­LAND IS EDI­TOR OF RENDEZVIEW.COM.AU claire.suther­land@news.com.au

AU­TUMN has fi­nally poked its head around the cor­ner in Vic­to­ria, af­ter a sum­mer that long out­stayed its wel­come.

But pock­ets of Aus­tralia are still burn­ing as a knife’s edge fire sea­son draws to a close.

It was a sea­son that saw un­usual heat last­ing long af­ter it should have dis­si­pated, low rain­fall for weeks on end and plenty of days of hot, gusty winds.

In short, per­fect bush­fire con­di­tions.

This year’s worst bush­fire cul­mi­nated in the dev­as­tat­ing loss of prop­erty in the fires at Tathra in NSW, but mirac­u­lously there was no loss of life.

Could it be that the hor­ri­fy­ing Black Satur­day bush­fires which killed 173 peo­ple in Vic­to­ria in 2009 have taught us the im­por­tance of hav­ing a plan, of life be­ing more im­por­tant than re­place­able prop­erty and of not light­ing bloody fires on to­tal fire ban days?

Well, the an­swer to that fi­nal point is ap­par­ently, no, it hasn’t.

The big­gest bush­fire threat has al­ways been, and re­mains, morons.

My step­son, his girl­friend and two mates en­coun­tered a pack of them in Vic­to­ria’s Ot­ways re­cently.

The first sign there were id­iots afoot was the loud mu­sic blar­ing from their cars in what is meant to be a peace­ful na­tional park camp­ing spot deep in the for­est.

The kind of ar­ro­gance that as­sumes every­one else wants their week­end to be sound­tracked by a stranger’s mu­si­cal choices is al­ways a wor­ry­ing por­tent, but a po­lite re­quest for the mu­sic to be turned down met sur­pris­ingly lit­tle re­sis­tance and it seemed that har­mony could be achieved.

The group — con­sist­ing of sev­eral groups of adults and some pri­mary school aged kids, not a bunch of teens, note — left late in the af­ter­noon, pre­sum­ably to go to the pub in the near­est town.

It was when they re­turned, seem­ingly drunk, that their be­hav­iour went from mildly an­ti­so­cial to po­ten­tially lethal.

On a week­end of to­tal fire ban in Vic­to­ria, where the au­thor­i­ties had been at pains to spread the mes­sage that a com­bi­na­tion of hot, gusty

winds and weeks of no rain would make the for­est a pow­der keg in the event of a spark, these dimwits de­cided a bonfire was a good idea.

Never mind they were risk­ing the lives of every­one camp­ing near them, and any­one liv­ing in the area, the fact that the safety of their own kids wasn’t enough to make them use their brains is noth­ing short of as­ton­ish­ing.

My step­son and one of his mates went over to beg them to put the fire out. Sparks were fly­ing ev­ery­where, buf­feted by high winds, and re­luc­tant as they were to pro­voke peo­ple with sub­op­ti­mal in­tel­li­gence, they gen­uinely feared for their lives. If the group had re­fused their next step was to pack up and leave.

One of the lit­tle girls spoke up say­ing: “He’s right, we shouldn’t have a fire, re­mem­ber what hap­pened on Black Satur­day?”

When a pri­mary school child has a more so­phis­ti­cated un­der­stand­ing of right and wrong and more com­mon sense than the adults who are meant to be car­ing for her, it may be time for those adults to do some self-assess­ment.

There’s a wor­ry­ing ca­pac­ity in some Aus­tralians to de­cry the nanny state to the point of ab­sur­dity. They sim­ply can’t han­dle be­ing told what to do, and their over-in­flated sense of per­sonal rights trumps do­ing the right thing.

The chief id­iot’s mates were seem­ingly per­suaded by the lit­tle girl’s ar­gu­ment, and agreed the fire should be ex­tin­guished, where upon a fist fight broke out among them, with the king of the id­iots ar­gu­ing, in essence, that no­body had the right to in­fringe on his free­dom to risk the im­mo­la­tion of every­one around him.

If our kids had thought to write down the num­ber plates you wouldn’t have seen me for dust in my rush to re­port them.

Un­for­tu­nately the fact a pun­chon started made them ner­vous to even sur­rep­ti­tiously take one down.

A cou­ple of weeks later, I’m still livid these scum­bags put my kid and his mates’ lives at risk.

I can see the value in get­ting along de­spite dif­fer­ing sports teams, val­ues and opin­ions, but I draw the line when some low life re­fuses to put the com­mu­nity’s right to be safe above their de­ranged sense of per­sonal free­dom.

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