Hobart mortgage broker Richard Denholm remembers his first day of school, back in ’67, smelling of smoke under the backdrop of a bright orange sky. Fires tore through Tasmania on that day, just as they have been since last weekend – though thankfully, so far, this time no one has been killed.
Denholm, who can see the smoke rising in the hills 25 minutes’ drive from his office, says he’s still trying to get hold of one client who may be affected by the fires, but says that, in general, Tasmanians are optimistic.
“I think they’re coping pretty well, but it’s been pretty warm days every day. I think it really depends on the winds. At the moment everything seems pretty under control. If we get some more really hot days though…”
He says the main source of grief, aside from lost homes and damaged property, has been the isolation of some parts of the country due to down power poles and debris blocking access along major roadways.
“There’s a lot of people that they’re taking out by boat. There was a rumour going about that the insurance on hire cars wouldn’t cover you if the car was damaged by the fire, so tourists were worried – they wouldn’t take the boats. But that's been cleared up now.”
However, while the state is engulfed in a smoky haze, Denholm says there may be one bit of fresh air filtering though the ashes.
“It’s a funny one. Sometimes things like this can actually be good. Our economy is really struggling at the moment and there’s going to be all this building activity. There might be good that comes out of it in the end, but it’s hard to say. Dunalley... it could be devastated, but at the same time you might have all the tradesmen going in there and then all the local building industries will get a bit of demand from that. Who knows?”