Brigade lends a hand in Southampton fire

The brigade’s Light Tanker and various crews were in action this week, helping out at the Southampton fire.

Thursday night Bob S and Mike B left at 6pm with Alan seeing them off at the Siding shed. They spent the night putting out flare ups and blacking out. At one stage they had to call in the Rosabrook 3.4 to knock down a fire further in the bush. They refilled from tankers. Tuesday night’s radio training was put to good use.

Friday morning at 5:00 Alan, Andy, Carlo & Ross departed the Dunsborough shed along with three Dunsborough crew for Nannup.  At the Nannup Control Centre, the crews were fed a hot breakfast. Chef Carlo found his Heinz spaghetti was definitely not pasta ‘al dente’! A packed lunch for the field was also provided.

Andy and Alan were assigned to the Dunsborough 4.4, Andy was crew leader & Alan any role as required, while Carlo and Ross took over the LT from Bob and Mike.

The crews were assigned to Sector Charlie, the North/North Eastern section of the fire about half an hour away, under the leadership of the Ambergate FCO. Initially the crews, included the Ambergate LT, Ringbarkers 2.4, Dunsborough 4.4 and the Hithergreen 3.4 were tasked with mopping-up  and blackout activities along the flank of the Sector Charlie in hilly  pine plantation terrain. They started before 8:00 and continued through the rest of the morning.  The plantation pines were of varying ages but always flanked at road/track side by thick stands of blackberry bushes. The weather was overcast and  windless until about 11:00 when it cleared, and after lunch there were light northerly winds.

Mid-morning one of  the two DPAW Sector Charlie Leaders, Ambergate LT and another were assigned to back burn an area  of unburnt pines on the Northern Flank of the sector. The results of this back burn dictated the rest of the day’s  activities for all the trucks in the sector. This included patrolling the back burn flank to prevent flare ups and prevent break outs, both of which occurred. The LT driven by Carlo roared into action off road, along with the Ambergate LT, to initially control a breakout in a large blackberry and native scrub stand complete with a collection of fallen native trees trunks & logs. The Duns 4.4 was also assigned to fight the same breakout from a track on the opposite side.

On the way to collect water from this break out the Rural LT noticed the beginning of a paddock grass fire downhill that had jumped the road. The Duns 4.4 was first on the scene to attack it in steep terrain.  Alan was on the static hose with Dunsborough’s Andy on the monitor.  They were later joined by other brigades, a dozer and DPAW called in two helitacks to quickly control the outbreak. The LT had been assigned to the flank of the grass fire to protect a couple of unoccupied houses on stilts.  Amongst all this a local farmer on a quad bike was driving around the paddock trying to locate a cow, its calf, plus two heifers that had been spooked by the helicopters.

Water  points were an issue, particularly for the Light Tanker with its limited water supply, as it blacked out hot spots and flare-ups.  The only assured water location was to draft from Hegarty Creek at the low concrete bridge just off the
Balingup-Nannup Road, a half hour round trip from the fire ground. Any other water points closer to the fire ground were only available for short periods during the day. The LT drafted  three times from Hegarty Creek and once from a hilltop  tank on Ewarts Road, then took one load from a tanker near Wrights Bridge, a load from a tanker filling the Ewarts Road hilltop tank and another load from a pump set up at a dam in the grounds of Lewana Cottages on the Balingup-Nannup Road.

The LT arrived back in Nannup around 6:15pm and, based on the morning  briefing, expected to hand over to a fresh crew and then be bused back to Dunsborough. After a burger and hot chips it was determined that DFES crews from our region were superfluous to requirements. Consequently the LT and the Duns 4.4  left Nannup just before 7:00pm with crews getting home just before 9:00.  A sixteen hour day.  John and Mark P, who were scheduled for the LT Saturday morning, were stood down.

(Thanks to Alan, Bob and Ross for text and Alan and Ross for pictures.)