Survivors of the Firestorm

In February 2009, conditions were ripe for wildfires in the state of Victoria in southeast Australia. Relentless heat waves, seemingly endless drought, and arid winds sweeping in from the outback had left the countryside tinder dry and braced for the worst. Then, on Saturday, February 7, Victoria went up in flames; and raging fires engulfed everything in their path. By the time the fires subsided, 173 people had lost their lives, over one million acres of mountain ash forest had been destroyed, and countless animals had perished. The overwhelming firestorm was one of the worst in the country’s history, and came to be known as Black Saturday.

But fires, although destructive, are essential for the long-term health of forests. Following Black Saturday, life demonstrated its remarkable resilience even in the middle of burned and blackened wilderness. Within weeks, the great forests began to turn green again. Dormant buds sprouted from charred branches, newly-opened seeds fell onto cleared ground, and millions of seedlings grew in the rich nutrients of scattered ashes. Flowers, grasses, fungi, and mosses all repopulated the area in a great rush of regeneration. Birds, encouraged by signs of recovery, returned to take up their lives again.

However, much of the wildlife that escaped the flames needed help. Rescued animals that had been burned and traumatized by the fires were tenderly nursed back to health at wildlife health centers by volunteers and veterinarians alike. Koalas, wallabies, wombats, kangaroos, echidnas, birds, endangered possums, and even fish all benefited from their care. Not every rescued animal survived, but the efforts of these caring individuals were crucial in saving those that did.

Survivors of the Firestorm follows the phoenix-like story of Victoria’s wildlife, the fall and rise of the great mountain ash forests and all that dwell within them, and the extraordinary capacity of a damaged natural world to bounce back.

NATURE’s Survivors of the Firestorm premieres Sunday, April 17 at 8pm (check local listings).

  • Jade

    When is this episode airing?

  • Kurtis

    I don’t know you should check the schedule

  • Sweet P

    Jade, it says Sunday, April 17, @ 8PM, on PBS

  • Margie H

    Watched it tonight…was on at 7:00 Eastern Daylight time. Fascinating….hope and rebirth among all the devesation. Nature..gotta love the design and the designer.

  • annieoklie

    Who is the narrator?

  • Chris M

    Hi Annie – I narrated ‘Survivors of the Firestorm’ – I hope you enjoyed it – I have loved being a part of PBS Nature and have narrated 6 of their films so far. We also just finished creating a major 3 part series for PBS Nature about my epic trip across Alaska called ‘Bears of the Last Frontier’. It starts on May 8th and it a beautiful film, thanks mostly to Joe Pontecorvo – my good friend and film maker, and the producer of the series.

    Best regards,
    Chris Morgan

  • Victorian

    I’m pretty sure this was called “Out of the Ashes” and was broadcast here in Australia on ABC on 13th Fev 2011. It’s available from the ABC show and it *might* still be on iView in Oz.

    It was a great show having witnesses the events first hand as both a firefighter and as a wildlife rescuer.

  • Suzanne Fotoples

    Blown away by “Survivors”. My Daughter, Betsy Harrington, has been a member of ” The Bushfire Recovery Commission” for the last 18 months and has spent much time in King Lake and Marysville. I live in OH, but visited the forrest shortly after the fire and also in Feb. 2011. I attended the Memorial Service for the victims of “Black Saturday” held in Melbourne a few weeks ago and it was both sad and hopeful for those who lost family and homes. These people show great resiliency as do the animals, birds and forrests. Everyone touched by the firestorm should have the opportunity to see your film. My thanks to Chris Morgan and Joe Pontecorvo for their splendid and moving production.

  • Sara Macy

    Showed the video to first period class. Thereafter it is saying it is not available. Will it be available tomorrow during the day??????

  • Catherine

    The “Survivors” broke my heart–yet also gave me hope! I alwyas watch replays of Nature–seeing an episode just once is never enough for me. I’ll admit I cried, seeing the injured animals, and the damge to their habitat. Chris Morgan did another fantastic job narrating. I also have to thank all the wildlife rescuers, veterinarians, volunteers and firefighters. I use this line from “The Loneliest Animals”–…”where there’s life, there’s hope”. I felt hopfeul by the end of this episode, of course thanks to the dedication of the folks nursing the animals back to health; and the courage and determination of all wildlife to survive and thrive, irregardless of what man and nature throws at them.

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