Bush Fire
Bush Fire

Bush Fire

On Saturday 21st, my 19yo son, my wifes RFS crew and I watched the fire trickle towards us from the east then south against a light westerly wind, covering 200m over a period of 4 hours with 1m flame height...

On Saturday 21st, my 19yo son, my wifes RFS crew and I watched the fire trickle towards us from the east then south against a light westerly wind, covering 200m over a period of 4 hours with 1m flame height, until 7:16 (& 38 seconds according to the photo timestamp). It eventually arrived with low flame height, so the crew kitted up, while she radioed for assistance from another RFS crew.

Low flame height, gentle westerly breeze

I walked across the gravel & started our pump and turned around to take another photo.

The wind had suddenly changed from Westerly to Southerly… and 43 seconds later flame height was approx 10m & the flank of the fire had become a 150m fire front. That’s my son, and a tiny patch of yellow (near centre) is one of the RFS crew on a 25mm hose.

43 seconds later, the stronger southerly hit the fire front

64 seconds later the flame height is 5-10m above treetops, and S had called her crew back to truck to drop hoses & fall back. My son has also retreated to be closer to house.

64 seconds later, the southerly whipped the flames to 10m above the tree tops

He continued to fight fire approaching from the East, By now it had spotted over to the cottage (behind us), so I took my hose in that direction & started to put out the spots. A 2nd RFS truck quickly arrived & helped with spot fires, but there many of them appearing constantly & they got uncontrollable with 10 seconds.

My wife & the crew leader from 2nd truck could see that it was uncontrollable at that point, and made the obvious decision to retreat to a safe area - she shouted at me to get our son inside the house. The 2nd truck had only just arrived and had to reverse to get out. Unfortunately it was overrun, and the spray curtains ran out of water quickly. However, they did manage to get out through the flames eventually. Both trucks were immediately re-assigned to protect other properties.

As I ran with my hose back to house, I saw the flames come over the ridge line of the house, I could feel unbearably hot air in my lungs through my mask, but once I was closer to the house, it got a lot better. As I looked back I could see the red & blue lights of the 2nd truck still stationary in the flames - it was impossible to get close to them & there were too many other things to do. I could see my son still at the East side hosing, so I shouted at him to get around the corner to put out fires close to the carport where there was higher potential risk to the house - he responded that he had tried but it was too hot.

We both continued to put out fires close to the more sheltered side of the house. The fire front passed over us by 7:22. We soon ran out of water while mopping up the spot fires, and by this time the power for garden hoses had gone. Occasionally banksias would burst into a ball of crackling flame - a bucket of water was useless, so we didn’t bother after a couple of fails.

By 8PM it was just embers & candlesticks and falling trees in the now stronger southerly wind. Some time around then I realised that when I turned around to take a photo after starting the pump, my gloves were still next to the pump.

The relative calm after the front had passed us

So we patrolled continuously with buckets - both buildings inside & out looking for embers. Damaged limbs were falling every 2-3 minutes causing big clouds of embers, so we stayed close to the walls.

Then two Fire & Rescue trucks arrived. Great I though - they’ve come to help with the remaining smaller fires. They jumped out wearing breathing apparatus and shouted get into the house quick. When we & the 4 big firefighters were all in our entrance they said, we’ve come to take you out. They spent the next 10 minutes forcefully telling us they we had to leave with them immediately. We declined their kind offer & after they left we continued to patrol until 10:30PM. However, at that point my wife knew we were safe… she was also able to prevent the police coming in to forcefully remove us.

We’re pleased that all involved are safe and also that the house, cottage and cars are fine - there are only minor scorch marks on a small patch of roof where leaves must have caught alight, and the sarking of the car port and some flashing melted. This is a great opportunity to redesign the garden so it’s more fireproof, and less tasty to the local fauna!

  • 22/12/2019