The mind numbs when it considers the firestorm that hit Victoria, in southeastern Australia, on 7 February. More than 200 people killed, more than 1,800 homes flattened, whole towns reduced to ashes, and an estimated 4,500 square kilometres of bushland burnt: equivalent to an area nearly four times the size of Berkshire. The fires, whipped up by ferocious, hot northeasterly winds of 100-120 km/h, had fronts 80 kilometres long and reached temperatures high enough to turn jewellery to treacle. These weren't fires you could fight.
It's only the personal touches that make it seem real. I rang a friend whose home no longer exists in Kinglake, one of several towns that felt the full fury of the blaze. A few days after the fires, he had been looking for his neighbours, who had been missing for two days. He found them, cuddled together with their pet dog in their driveway. All dead.
Australia is no …