Apocalypse 2020: January, day 32

It's a little after one. Friday night revellers should be trickling back from the city to their suburban homes, but the streets are empty, eerily quiet. I am at the top of a hill, looking south. Below me is the Calwell Ambulance Station. Canberra's suburbs are spread out, tucked into the low ground between the hills, separated by stretches of grass and scrub that are the homes of kangaroos and rabbits. Tonight the dusty brown paddocks around the ambulance station are floodlit. A small army is massing: dozens of firetrucks are lined up, grouped together by their fire station or town of origin, like little Jastas ready to fly into battle. The baggage trains - utes piled high with equipment, EWPs and heavy vehicles, a refrigerator truck. There are people moving back and forth, busy with equipment and packing and food. From here they are tiny, silent, little toy soldiers trotted around by invisible hands.

I feel a rumble and the helicopter circles again. These vultures are usually diurnal but tonight they are still wheeling above. The wind has dropped, and the smoke is drifting across the horizon to the east. Above me Alpha and Beta Centauri point to the Southern Cross. The clear stars trick me into believing the night is cooler than it really is.

And across the valley the spot fires dot the slopes of the hills like campfires. The campfires are stretched along three hills. The right flank is at the crest of a ridge, commanding the best view of the valley. The left flank is ranged down the near slopes, marking a boundary that twists and writhes with the undulations of the land. Between, the vanguard, more and more lights flickering into life and crowding towards us.

And behind them, the red glow lights up the southern end of the mountain range. The armies of hell, massing for tomorrow's assault. They bring their own weather system: as soon as the sun hits their left flank it will generate enough heat to fuel high winds, sending ember attacks kilometres ahead of the main fire front. As the day heats up there may be pyrocumulonimbus.

In the silence of the empty roads, and the circling of the helicopters, is the unspoken terror of the fire tornado.


1. I was on a hill AWAY from the fire. I am specifying this because large numbers of dickheads have been going TOWARDS the fires to take photos. DON'T DO THAT.

2. Here is a video of the first recorded fire tornado. It was taken about 5km from here in 2003 and is the reason why this whole town is Really Fucking Twitchy right now.

3. I'm packed, ready to evacuate, and will not be hanging around. reQuest might be updated late if tomorrow turns dramatic - or if the weather is so hot that the laptop shuts down, which happened a lot today.