I'm not much of a one for gratitude to any higher power. But the rain in south-eastern Australia must seem like a Christmas gift to those fighting the three-million acre bushfire (forest fire) that's been raging for weeks. I'm especially grateful. I own a house between Merrijig and Sawmill Settlement, in north-eastern Victoria. Fire was practically lapping at my door. The weather changed so drastically that the nearby ski resort of Mt Buller actually had snow on it for Christmas. My neighbours and I owe a vote of thanks to the firefighters (many of whom are volunteers) struggling to contain the blaze over the last month. The season isn't over yet, so they still have their work cut out for them. May they enjoy the Christmas respite.