There’s a British saying that fire is a good servant but a bad master. But in Australia, with its unique vegetation and climate, fire can also be a terrifying predator. Like all good predators, it remains hidden until it’s ready to strike, so even in this fire-plagued year, most Australians have not seen the flames that lurk in the forest, taking life seemingly at random. But many have smelt its stench. Sometimes we wake at night to thickening smoke, and lie there wondering where the beast is prowling. Some mornings we peer out the window and decide that it is not a safe day to be outside.