Rural’s Ross Miller was part of the crew from the Lower South West region sent to help at the Esperance fires last holiday weekend.
He was picked up by Rural alumni and now Coastal’s Tich last Friday morning and they flew out as part of a crew of 20 from Busselton airport on a Dash 8 charter flight.
The Lower SW team, with volunteers from Ambergate, Dunsborough, Darradup, Hithergreen, Kangaroo Gully, Metricup, Northcliffe, Wallcliffe, Wilyabrup, Coastal & Rural, was assigned to two LTs, the Busselton 12.2, and a mixture of 3.4s & 4.4s, with Ross on the Cowaramup 3.4U (the only Red Truck on the fire ground). After getting new batteries the truck headed out east to the Exchange Road fire ground near Boyatup, effectively on the coast, approximately 90km from Esperance, and adjacent to Cape Arid National Park. This fire was only one of a number in the Esperance region.
The heavy trucks including the Cowaramup 3.4U, spent Friday afternoon and evening on the north eastern flank of the scrub fire patrolling in a harvested canola field. Saturday morning the Cowaramup 3.4U was assigned patrolling duties in the same region while others, including the LTs, carried out back burning on the south east flank of the fire .
The fire entered a blue gum plantation on the north east side of the scrub fire. In the afternoon the Cowaramup 3.4 was patrolling the eastern flank of the Blackboy Creek finger as the Helitorch was used to back burn this pocket of scrub. After it had finished Ross was part of a group assigned to back burn sections of the eastern flank of Blackboy Creek, towards the area burnt out by the Helitorch.
The truck was in for repairs most of Sunday and the crew didn’t get back on the fire ground until 5pm. It was assigned to patrol the western flank of the Exchange Road Fire. This included providing support to a grader and loader working along the western flank sand track.
Monday morning all the sector trucks were assigned to the western flank and drove out along Exchange Road towards the coast just north of the sand dunes. This involved having to let tyres down to 40psi to drive in the sand. Mid-afternoon a back burn of the unburnt south west was carried out. This was completed then blacked out before all crews left the fire ground for a final night in Esperance.
The Lower SW team worked with the local fire fighters includeing the farm and plantation owners surrounding the fire ground. Their knowledge of the fire conditions, terrain and weather patterns was invaluable.
Crew accommodation in Esperance was in motels on Friday and Monday nights, and in eight person army tents on fold-up camp beds and sleeping bags inside the Esperance Sport Centre on Saturday and Sunday nights. Breakfasts and two evening meals were provided at the adjacent Esperance Bowling Club. Friday and Sunday evening meals were provided at the fire ground I.C.
Tuesday morning the Lower SW task force was demobilised and all trucks set off in convoy for Kojonup. After lunch there all the trucks headed off to their various bases. Ross returned home around 5:30pm after being on the road for five days.