We are in the middle of the bushfire season here in Western Australia. They are a seasonal hazard when your forests are largely eucalyptus and summers are long, hot and dry. Add in nearly a week of violent electrical storms - this is not quite so normal. Storms do occur at this time of the year but for there to be so many and for such a long period is unusual - and you have lightning strikes igniting fires as well, unfortunately, as others started by arsonists. There's always a flurry of the latter towards the end of the summer school holidays when bored kids - mostly boys between 9 and 17, according to the police, with a fascination with fire and no comprehension of how destructive it can be - get into mischief.
There have already been several serious fires on the outskirts of the city itself over the past three weeks but they are now out. Friends who were evacuated when their homes were under threat said they were quite terrifying but, with no fuel left, those areas, at least, should be safe for a while. It brought back memories of when I was a child and a night when my parents gathered my brother and me up out of bed as a fire bore down on where we lived. It stopped before it reached our place but I can still feel the heat ahead of it and see the flames racing towards us as if they were some giant monster devouring everything in front of them.
While those fires are done with, other parts of the state are not so lucky and are now under threat. There is a major fire burning in the heavily forested southern part of the state approximately 400 kilometres from us - towns have been evacuated and there has been stock and property loss - and another is threatening several towns in the farming areas around 170 kilometres south of here.
With fires comes smoke and the prevailing winds are driving masses of it from both fires north to the city and beyond.
This is the view from just outside my back door across the large park in the valley around 8:00 AM. You can see blue sky and greenery but on the horizon an ominous pall of smoke is moving in. Even then the air reeked of smoke.
The two photos below were taken from slightly different angles around 11:50 AM. The blue sky has completely disappeared, blocked out by the smoke, which is hazing the neighbouring buildings and even the plants in the garden.
I would have taken more photos but the smoke was overwhelming and my eyes are still stinging nearly an hour later. But this is merely an inconvenience for most people here in the city and my heart goes out to those whose homes and livelihoods are under threat and to the animals caught up in the inferno.