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Steve Marshall: Covering Tassie

opinion Steve Marshall

By Steve Marshall ONE News Australia Correspondent

Published: 10:04PM Monday January 07, 2013 Source: ONE News

It all started with a smouldering tree stump, according to Tasmania police.

A trunk that, more than likely, was struck down by lightning in the Tasmanian forest. Then came the heatwave. Temperatures of more than 40 degrees and high winds combined to unleash a New Year hell on Australia's southerly Island of half a million people.

When I flew into Hobart from Sydney, I could hardly make out the landscape below me because of the blanket of bush fire smoke covering the state's capital. Tasmania is promoted as the natural state, a "world apart" not a "world away" due to its unspoiled landscape.

Now, raging bush fires have cut a swathe through the Island's beauty. With the road to the worst hit area - Dunalley - closed, I drove in the opposite direction to meet Aucklander Charlotte Purdy. Charlotte was camping on a shoreline north of Hobart when the fires approached.

She told me how a park ranger arrived on the scene to warn them about the approaching bush fire. Charlotte didn't muck about. Leaving their tent pegged to the ground, Charlotte and her partner jumped in the car.

The problem was they had to drive towards the flames on the only road out to make to safety. With the sky thick with black smoke, Charlotte said she was relieved to see the junction in the road where they turned to safety.

Over the past few days I've seen many things. Faces forlorn with despair. Faces filled with relief. I've seen Prime Minister Gillard comfort people by putting her arm around them. I've also seen her pitch in and lift trays of bottled water out of her car boot for the needy.

I've seen firefighters trudge into the forest for another long day at the office. I've seen them come out blackened but not beaten. I've seen rooms filled with donated food and clothes. I've seen anger in a few and frustration in many. But most of all I've seen a steely determination.

I leave Tasmania knowing its people might be down but they're certainly not out.

Read more by Steve Marshall . And follow him on Twitter @SteveMarshallNZ