Fires on the Ground, Confusion in the Soul

Regular readers of my blog or social media feeds will know that I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’m proud of the city where I live. It just breaks my heart to see my city threatened once again by Mother Nature.

We have had our fair share of natural disasters, mostly in the form of earthquakes (something that I have written about on numerous occasions), but Christchurch is definitely not immune to the ravages of weather.

Flooding from March 2014 meant that many had be to rescued by boat. (Photo: Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ)

There was the flooding back in March 2014 were St Albans (the suburb literally on the other side of the main road from me) was evacuated because the water was waist high. My neighbour had flooding in her garage that was ankle deep. Meanwhile, I was nice and dry on my little low-level island.

We’ve had storms with extremely high winds, taking down trees that have stood for nearly 100 years, if not longer, and almost taking out my neighbour’s car as a branch fell across the road right in front of her. There’s been snow that has forced the city to shut for business for the day (and Christchurch doesn’t get snow).

However, in the 17 years that I have lived in Christchurch, I think this is the first time that my home city has come under threat because of a bush fire.

I wanted to write this post, not because I wanted sympathy. Definitely not. I wanted to explain to my family and friends the surreal nature of what is going on and how odd it feels to be sitting here safe in my home when so many others aren’t so lucky, only 30-minutes drive away.

As of 7am on 16 Feb 2017, this was the area affected by the fire, showing exactly how far the fire had spread. (Source: Christchurch City Council)

On Monday evening, two fires were spotted on the Port Hills, just south of the city. Rural firefighters were immediately called all. Three days later and they’re still fighting the fires that have raged with no mercy. Every time they appear to get it under control, the wind interferes.

Helicopters are being used to help fight this fire, but they too have suffered as a consequence. On Tuesday, one chopper crashed, killing the pilot on impact.

Whole suburbs are being evacuated. Health warnings for the rest of the city have been issued. Yesterday, power throughout the city went out as a result of the fires.  And the clouds that I can see out my lounge window are not clouds, rather plumes of smoke.

On a day like today, gorgeous summer weather, blue sky and blistering sun, I should be able to clearly see the Port Hills, but I can’t. They are covered in a shroud of grey.

Both the mayors of Christchurch City and Selwyn District have declared a state of emergency. The NZ Army is now involved, helping to fight these fires and deal with those that were forced to evacuate from their homes. This is a serious situation.

Map of Christchurch

I live approximately 30 minutes drive from the areas most affected by this fire.

Yet, for most of those who live in Christchurch, it’s business as usual.

I continue to send my two teens to school and my husband still heads into the city for work. I login to the internet and continue on with the writing and editing that I need to get done (only complaining when the power went out yesterday).

Ironically, I live only 30 minutes away from the areas most affected by these fires. It wouldn’t take much for the winds to pick up and more of South Christchurch could be in danger. However, for myself to be affected any more than just power outages, something would have to seriously go wrong and the whole of Christchurch would need to be on fire.

I look at my actions and wonder if there is something wrong with me. In a way, I feel as though I should be doing something to help, but I also know that there’s nothing I can do, except stay out of the way. I shouldn’t be complaining about no power when there are those who now have no home. I tag myself as “safe” on Facebook so my overseas family don’t jump to conclusions and think the worse, meanwhile, I look at the photos and images with morbid interest.

Am I crazy? Am I losing my sense of humanity?

It doesn’t affect me, so I just carry on. Is this really the right attitude to be having?

There is absolutely nothing that I can do. Some might suggest taking food to one of the local shelters, but notices have come out where the refugee shelters are now turning away the food. They have too much. If people bring more, there would be a wastage.

I can’t house anyone displaced from their home. My house is barely big enough for my little family of four.

The only thing I can do is stay out of the way and live my life.

So I complain about power outages and the lack of internet. I complain because I’ve forgotten a password to my Air New Zealand Airpoints account.

I sit and enjoy the sunshine and the slight breeze, knowing the havoc it’s playing only 30-minutes drive away. And I hear news about more people being evacuated from their homes while I’m nice and snug in mine.

I have tears in my eyes as I write this, but not for those that are suffering as a direct result of these fires. No, I feel a tightness in my chest because I’m being selfish, living my life as though nothing is wrong, yet, I can hear the helicopters fly overhead, heading out to collect another bucket of water from the ocean to fight this fire.

Someone please tell me, what exactly is wrong with me?

(Featured Image: Fires on the Port Hills just south of Christchurch, New Zealand, only meters away from the main radio tower. Photo taken 15 Feb 2017.)


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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

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