Summer leaving Australia with a vengeance

In Australian Capital Territory, Australian Cultural Exports, Australian Domestic Tourism, Community, National Headlines, Western Australia

PHOTO: Surf lifesavers were forced to carry out a mass rescue off Scarborough Beach after a flash rip occured. (Supplied: SLSWA)

‘Flash rip’ at Scarborough Beach drags 20 out to sea; all safely rescued by lifesavers

More than 20 swimmers had to be pulled from the water at a Perth beach after a “flash rip” dragged people out to sea.

The swimmers, including some children, were rescued just south of the flagged swimming area on Scarborough Beach after they were caught in the fast-moving water on Thursday.

The City of Stirling’s beach services coordinator, John Snook, said unsettled conditions up and down the coast together with a big swell had contributed to the rip.

“Scarborough Beach does experience a large number of rips and certainly can be quite dangerous for inexperienced swimmers,” Mr Snook said.

“Mass rescues aren’t everyday occurrences, they’re not common, but by the same token they’re not unknown either.”

One beach inspector and six lifeguards carried out the rescues.

Mr Snook said none of the swimmers needed medical attention.

“For the most part they were okay, they were exhausted, they had been swept out to sea and obviously out of their depth,” he said.

“Some were a little bit frightened, not hysterical but certainly concerned.

“It’s something that all people should be aware of when they enter the ocean that rips can spring up without prior notice and people need to be prepared for that.”

Wasp warning in Canberra after spate of serious stinging attacks

Authorities are warning residents in Canberra to be careful around wasp nests, with a spate of serious stinging attacks occurring this year.

In the last month, 12 Canberrans reported serious stings and 1,000 people called the European wasp hotline, with one victim suffering at least eight bites.

Pest officer with Territory and Municipal Services Jenny Conolly said officers were destroying at least two wasp nests a day.

“The nests are getting quite large, they’re very aggressive, they won’t hesitate to sting and attack,” she said.

“They have been known to fly at your face and squirt venom, so we always wear sunglasses.”

Medical experts, including Dr Raymond Mullins, a consultant physician and allergy expert at the John James Centre, warned of the potentially rare and serious consequences of wasp stings for allergy sufferers.

“The major concern is the people who get the top-to-toe rash, can’t breathe or in the worse case scenario drop their blood pressure, collapse and end up in hospital,” he said.

‘I could feel a venom trail up my arm’

Ms Conolly said despite the protective clothing, she was stung last year when a wasp crawled up inside her sleeve.

“Within five to six hours I could actually feel a venom trail leading up my arm,” she said.

John Emery, a tree watering contractor, was stung several times in the suburb of Harrison on Wednesday.

“I filled the basin with water, as per usual, and the next thing these European wasps just flew out and attacked me,” he said.

The wasps swarmed him and eventually crawled inside his clothes.

“I felt one bite me in the groin which wasn’t real nice,” Mr Emery said.

“It is an issue. Everyone has just got to be aware.”

Scientists also expressed concern about the potential long-term environmental impacts of the growing wasp population.

Entomologist Dr Philip Spradbery said wasp nests in the bush were known to have severe environmental consequences.

“They will absolutely clear out an area of all insect life,” he said.

Northcliffe bushfire: Resident Doug Bennett in lone battle to save home from WA blaze

From, 5th February 2015

A Western Australian man who battled 20-metre-high flames to save his Northcliffe home says he warned the State Government years ago the town was a “tinderbox” waiting to burn.

Doug Bennett, a fire patrol officer for 20 years, said flames tearing up the hill towards his home on Tuesday night sounded like “half a dozen express trains”.

“It was very nervy and scary with the noise,” he said.

“My heart’s still going like a rocket. It was just a case of jumping on spot fires when I could.

“Just the noise of the fire going through the tree tops, it was just a case of, hang in there.”

Mr Bennett chose to ignore warnings from authorities to evacuate as flames bore down on the small WA town, about 350 kilometres south of Perth, in what has been described as one of the worst bushfires in the state’s history.

He has had a fire plan in place for a year, after seeing the risk of an out-of-control fire as “inevitable”.

Mr Bennett said he wrote to his local member, Terry Redman, in February 2011, warning him that fuel loads were putting the town at risk.

“Local brigades have been doing the best they can, and a good job they have been doing, to burn as much as they could,” he said.

But he said thick bush that had not been burned hampered efforts. He managed to save his property single-handedly.

“It was a scary night, very scary,” he said.

“[It was] just my dog and my chooks and they’re all ok, that’s the main thing. I haven’t lost anything as far as structural, just a beautiful bit of bush.”

Community rallies to support firefighters

Local schoolchildren in Northcliffe have made up grab bags for firefighters battling to save their town.

One of the firefighters who has been at the blaze since early Sunday morning posted on Facebook how grateful he was.

“It’s times like this when you’re at a fire and have been absolutely belted for days, and threat of life and properties is real, that [this] can finally make you smile,” he said.

“These are a grab bag the local school made up for us and check out the note, the personal note in each one.”

Nervous wait for those choosing to stay and defend

Potato grower Simon Moltoni lives about 17 kilometres north-west of Northcliffe and said he was expecting the fire to hit his place some time on Friday.

“Just looking at the fire map and looking at the winds coming for the next few days, yeah I’m very, very concerned,” he said.

He has decided to stay and defend his property.

“Our gutters have never been so clean,” Mr Moltoni said.

“[That’s] step number one, but removing everything from around close to the buildings, putting fire breaks in with the tractors of course.

“I’ve got friends and neighbours who’ve offered me equipment because they know, they’re on the other side of town and they know, it’s going to come through our place to get to them.

“So I’ve got some fire units promised from friends on the other side of town, so just preparing for it to come.”

Mr Moltoni said his wife and sons would likely leave and it was difficult trying to decide what possessions to take.

“It’s a bit strange really,” he said.

“When I was driving into this meeting my son said to me ‘I’m not sure what to take’ and I’ve been going through the same thing.”

Mr Moltoni, who is also the president of the local bushfire brigade, said there would be a lot of mopping up to do until long after the fire is out.

“This is not going to go away,” he said.

“It’ll be hanging over our heads until probably Easter or later depending on the season.”

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