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  1. Marty Boyce
  2. Have A Yarn
  3. Friday, 12 May 2017
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Mulligans Flat fire January 18th 2017 A personal view
It had already been a busy week, arriving back in Sutton on Monday evening Tuesday brought a call out for property protection at Wamboin , arriving on the Fireground we were deployed to mopping up activities along the roadside . Shortly after we were redeployed to the Tarago fire a fast moving grass and bush fire that would go on to burn over 3000 hectares and take a further two days to be fully contained. We spent approx. 8 hours on the fire ground engaged in mopping up activities and flanking attacks on flare ups in the paddocks heavy with cured grasses . We were stood down at approx. 20:30 hours and returned to Sutton
Wednesday
Extreme Fire Danger issued for the area around Sutton . Temps predicted to be in the high 30’s with strong north westerly winds reaching gusts of 50-60 km .
Called to assist the local SES providing fire protection while they remove a tree blocking a local residents driveway , the temp around lunch tie was in excess of 38 degrees and the winds were picking up , for once I would have been happy for the weather forecast to be wrong. We were stood down from this job after one of the SES members was overcome by the heat , after assisting with first aide we were stood down and returned to home .
Resting up I made a coffee and was contemplating a swim , FIRE CALLOUT , fast running grass fire on Mulligans Flat Road . Driving to the station there was already a large smoke cloud visible , this was moving quickly fanned by the strengthening winds . On to the truck Sutton 2 , both other Sutton vehicles were on deployment to the Tarago fire . we would be going in solo . Kitting up and putting my boots on in the truck (my thongs discarded on the cabin floor , one of them to be left on the fire ground and found again the next day ) With a crew of three we headed to the approaching fire Craig Cartwright and myself with Graham Scofeild as driver and Crew Leader . On reaching the fire ground we were directed to property protection with the directive from Group 4 to do the best you can . At the property we found a number of small out buildings and a pile of prunings and other debris well alight adjacent to the house . We quickly surveyed the surrounds making a number of passes of the house to douse the active fire before a frontal attack on the small outbuilding and debris pile burning furiously close to the house fanned by the wind gusts . Getting the truck as close as possible we attempted to douse the active fire , getting a spray back of hot water for our troubles (bows and arrows against the Lightning) . Happy that we eventually had the fires close to the house knocked down enough we retreated back to plan our next priority . NO HOSE PRESSURE !! A main pipe on the underside of the truck had detached, the water gushing onto the ground , a quick investigation and some attempted running repairs are unsuccessful . A pumper from the ACT arrived however they were almost out of water Using the available hoses at the property we doused any burning artifacts immediately around the house before retreating to make another attempt and fixing the loose hose . After another unsuccessful attempt we moved away from the fire ground to meet Prabh Singh on the road who was bringing some spare parts to make good on the repairs , a quick attempt to repair then the decision was made to move further away . believing we had an operational pump again we arrived at a dam to refill the tank , fairly confident that we had a sufficient distance between us and the fire front . A wind change fanned the approaching front and it jumped the road heading straight for us , before we knew it the fire front was on top of us , a colorful expletive or two and the shout was get going get us out of here , Craig was back on the truck in an instant and Graham gunned the motor to get us out of danger. We were heading through the hell fire with a failing pump , crew area sprays on and keeping low to avoid the radiant heat . Was I scared ? You bet I was , this is one experience that I will be happy to never have to repeat . Safely away from the fire front we headed back to the Sutton station feeling deflated as we were out of the fight for now. For long term resident Craig who’s family has been in Sutton for generations this hit hard it was personal . At the station the hose issue was assessed and some repairs were made by long time resident, brigade life member and equipment officer Stewart Barrett , amazing what can be achieved with some fencing wire and some good old bush ingenuity . Using the time to cool down and rehydrate we were back in the fight , returning to begin mopping up operations ready for a long shift ahead . We continued mopping up and strengthening containment lines unil stood down at approximately 22:00. Exhausted we were done for the day , finally arriving at home after 23:00 with the prospect of returning at 06:00 Thursday for blacking out shifts . Collapsing into bed after a shower the alarm seemed to sound after about 10 minutes sleep . Now to start the other often most important task , the one that the media doesn’t show but the work that must be done correctly to prevent a breakout of the fire onto unburnt ground . The morning session was going well, although fatigue was setting in and my body feeling the strain of constantly climbing on and off the truck , as long as we kept going I was going to be ok . 12:30 we stopped for a well-earned welfare break back at the station, never before had sandwiches and a good old blend 43 coffee tasted so good and the pies supplied by the Bakery at Sutton were simply the most delicious thing ever tasted. Back to the fire ground but I was done , I had nothing else to give , fatigue had set in and after cooling down during the break my body just wouldn’t function , reluctantly I advised Graham my crew Leader that I was removing myself from the fire ground I simply couldn’t continue . It brought mixed emotions I wanted to stay and finish what we had started but I knew I didn’t have any reserves left . A stark reminder that Im not 20 years old anymore
What sticks in my mind from this fire ?
The fear that I felt when right in the thick of it , fear that was controlled by training and a trust in my fellow crew members on Sutton 2 , we were alone in the middle of a running fire with a task to complete as best we could but we knew each had the others back Craig was staunch as I knew he would be , this was as I mentioned taken personally as it is his home town . Graham was solid as the driver and Crew Leader , he got us out of trouble when needed without hesitation . The sight of a large roo sitting in the middle of the dam near the house is etched into my mind perhaps reflecting the ferocity of the fire that had raced through. The sheep caught in the yards their wool blackened by flames . The sights and sounds of the choppers and fixed wing planes as they doused the flare ups and put in retardant lines , especially the sight of the Black Hawk water bomber that refilled at the same dam that we were refilling at , the skill of these pilots is amazing .The way our training kicked in as if it was second nature , decisions were made instantly , we knew what we each had to do and we did it. We were initially tasked with property protection and despite the issues with the pump we successfully saved the house assigned to us, we acted under stress in trying conditions, we did what was needed to be done to the best of our ability with available resources . And the the feeling of a job well done when we heard that the fire had been contained and eventually controlled with everyone returning safely that beyond anything is the real outcome
I am a blow in , arriving in Sutton in the middle of 2015 but I have formed some great friendships here and now consider Sutton home . I am proud to be a member of the Sutton Volunteer Fire Brigade and consider a number of the other members as friends ,.Sutton is rightfully proud of the Brigade , they showed again this week that they are up there with the best there are .
Marty
Comment
  1. Harry Harper
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #326
Goodonya Marty, well done Mate. It's great that you knew your limit when becoming exhausted, seems like a very wise decision was made, knowing not to place yourself or your fellow firefighters at risk. Enjoyed your coverage of the situation,Marty, it's a very interesting insight of what actually happens up front and behind the scenes. Great stuff Mate. Cheers.
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