For the second day running the city is choking under an all pervading cloud of smoke from a massive fire in the hills. Visibility is down to about a two kilometres (and hazy), people with heart and lung conditions are being advised to stay indoors, and everywhere you go reeks of burning. The fire is ‘under control’ now, so hopefully it won’t be as bad today as it was yesterday when we couldn’t even see the city from our office window*The city consisting of skyscrapers about 1.5km away – when you can’t see something like that you know conditions are bad and sunlight was reduced to baleful dull orange. I’ve never suffered from asthma in my life , but yesterday I had trouble getting enough air – just walking from the bus-stop to the office left me feeling dizzy and out of breath.
The government’s put up a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the arsonist responsible for starting the blaze – not nearly enough if you ask me.
I’m not sure what kind of penalties the guy (and let’s face it, it’s almost certainly a guy) will get if he’s caught, but I’ve been thinking about it and reckon they should institute a standard scale of penalties for arsonists based on the damage done. One year’s imprisonment for every $1000 worth of damage, with bushland being valued at a standard rate of $500 per hectare. So if a deliberately lit fire burns out 50 hectares of bush, destroys two cattle sheds worth $8000 each and damages someone’s house to a value of $50,000, they’ll be looking at 91 years in jail without parole – which seems fair enough to me.
In this climate fire is not something to play around with.