Black Saturday was a wildfire that struck the Australian state of Victoria on Feb. 9. Nearly 200 people died. More than 7,500 people became homeless and more than a million acres of land were burnt. There were incredible losses of stock. The Black Saturday disaster was in fact a series of fires. Many are thought to have been deliberately lit and the government is investigating what some are calling mass murder. Prior to Black Saturday Victoria had a heatwave with near-record low rainfall. Feb. 7 was Victoria’s hottest day on record. Melbourne broiled under 115 degree heat. The fires came steamrolling through like a dragon breathing fire and smoke over the country. In minutes, lives were extinguished and towns destroyed. Tony Fawcett, editor of the LION Magazine in Australia, filed these two stories of survival. TEARS AMONG THE ASHES Grown men do cry. Just ask Australia’s V5 District Governor David Jones. Barely a day has gone by since Australia’s disastrous wildfires in February that Jones has not shed tears for the loss and destruction. But Jones, whose district takes in some of the worst affected areas, has refused to allow tears to interfere with his crusade to bring happiness back to victims. He worked tirelessly for weeks after the fires, ferrying goods from the Lions collection depot to devastated areas, turning his back on his own business and losing nearly 15 pounds in the process. Colleagues estimate that many days he worked 21 hours out of each 24. What he’s seen will, says Jones, live with him for the rest of his life. There are memories of total devastation in towns such as Kinglake and Flowerdale. His first look at the destruction of Marysville, which he toured with International Vice President Sid Scruggs and his wife, Judy, was “the most life-changing situation I’ve ever encountered. “Mate, there wasn’t a dry eye in that car. I’ll never forget it. Twelve days earlier I had been in Marysville for the Australia Day celebrations when we carried the flags. If someone had told me then that this beautiful town would soon no longer exist, l’d have said bull... “You can’t comprehend that a fire could be so hot it could destroy a town in 26 minutes. The heat was so intense that corrugated iron which needs a blast furnace to melt it was just in lumps on the ground. If I ever see anything like that in my lifetime it will be too soon.” But like most Lions directly involved in the fire relief, Jones, a former firefighter, is intent on getting things back to as normal as possible. “We will rebuild my district and we’ll rebuild it properly,” he says, relating how Lions should feel proud about their immediate reaction to the disaster. It was because of this high visual Lions presence, he says, that representatives of the Victorian Building Commission sought him out in regard to reconstruction plans. “I asked, ‘Why me?’ and they said, ‘Your truck is seen going into Kinglake, Whittlesea, Buxton and all the areas where the need is so great.’ They said that ‘while all the other guys are sitting on their hands trying to work out how to cut red tape, you guys are on the ground doing it.’ I told them that’s the Lions charter, that we’re professionals and specialists who do it right.”
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This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/BLACK+SATURDAY%3A+AUSTRALIA/189671/19568/article.html.