Home News Rain offers bushfire respite but it isn’t enough. First rain in 10...

Rain offers bushfire respite but it isn’t enough. First rain in 10 years for some parts

Our Illawarra flame tree basking in the falling rain

Two weeks ago it rained across much of South Eastern Australia. In Terrigal, on the coast where I live, it poured down for about a day. This was our first serious bout of prolonged rain for over five months. Our 7,500-litre-capacity rainwater tanks are full again, glory be.

Even such a downfall was not enough to really break the drought in this part of Australia, but it gave the plants and the weeds a small drink. Sadly that was it for now. There’s been no follow-up rain so the trees are still stressed and even the usually drought-resistant eucalypts are looking sick.

First rain in a decade

The rain has not been uniformly distributed but there have been big falls inland in drought-stricken areas and some areas of inland Queensland and north-east New South Wales have received their first drink in a decade. Yes, that’s right: the first rain for ten years. Some school age-children saw rain for the first time. Farmers are literally dancing with joy in the mud. Empty dams on rural properties have become small lakes. Dry creek beds have become raging torrents. But they need much more.

Many of the fires have been extinguished and others have been dampened although some are still burning, including those in the Snowy Mountains where a C130 firefighting aircraft crashed last week while water bombing a big fire. Sadly the three American crew members were killed in the crash.

We have had really hot weather again this last weekend so the threat of fires is still very much ongoing.

Canberra view

Last week I drove inland to Canberra and, beyond the Great Dividing Range, the country is still very dry with no evidence of any rain having fallen. I stayed in Canberra where it was extremely hot and windy. A big grass fire started right on the outskirts of the city and, for a while, it threatened homes. This fire was caused by arcing from power lines bought down by the wind.

The damage caused to the country and the wildlife and the people by the fires this summer is catastrophic. Thanks to the amazing response to the various bushfire appeals including the Red Dot Cameras appeal in London, there is a lot of support for the many people who have lost everything but the clothes they were wearing. Thank you, Red Dot, and to Macfilos readers around the world who chipped in and might still win a Leica D-Lux 7. The appeal is still open until the end of March.

The above photo of our Illawarra flame tree was taken from my house at midday on the day of rain. This beautiful tree has bushfire connections. In 2009 there were devastating bushfires in Victoria in which 173 people died. It was determined that the fires had started due to trees touching power lines. In a subsequent class-action the owner of the electricity network, SPAusnet, had to pay out damages of nearly one billion Australian dollars — say half a billion pounds Sterling.

As a result of these devastating fires and, presumably, the size of the damages, payment electricity network companies are now very aggressive in cutting back trees near power lines. In my case, the Illawarra flame tree is a few metres from the power lines and, anyway, it is a very slow-growing tree. But this has not stopped the tree pruners contracted by Ausgrid from enthusiastically hacking branches off it every winter. So it would be even more colourful if the hackers were a little more restrained.

You can find more from John Shingleton, at The Rolling Road. And on Instagram

More articles by John Shingleton on Macfilos


  1. John, I apprciate your update and are relieved that you and loved ones are safe. I love the picture of your flame tree. So typical of Australasian flora.

  2. Good to see your picture and read your words, John, as a sort of status quo, even if none too bright. Those of us with friends or family in your part of the globe follow events closely. Hope the ash in the air is diminishing.

  3. Hope your area is on the road to recovery as for your hackers, we have the same problem with National Grid here in NY. A step you didn’t mention but is available here is they will cut the tree down and replace with another species that won’t grow as tall. Think they figure that is cheaper than eliminate the problem by burying the power lines. Stay well

  4. Thank you for the update John, I have paid my way at red dot to support the cause. I have also bought the lush koala bars that are for sale supporting the bushfire appeal.


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