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CFA fights the good fight

RUBY READY: (L-R) Ruby brigade’s Darren Hardacre, Stuart Haw, Tim Hardacre, Nathan Hardacre, Emma Lynch, Corey Adams and Michael Guest on the East Gippsland fire ground.

FOR those who have been there it’s something almost beyond words.

Even the most stoic local firey will come close enough to tears as he or she recalls what they have seen in East Gippsland.

Despite the many challenges, Region 9 group officer Greg Carruthers told The Star that morale among the local firefighters was good, with crews changing every couple of days.

“There’s extras going up today (Monday) outside our normal rotations. Mostly, everyone is working really well together,” he said.

Leongatha brigade member Scott Hillis, who has been part of two strike teams now, has seen a marked change in the severity of the blaze.

While his first entry into the fray was only on December 22, a week later “there were spot fires everywhere”.

“Houses were burning around us. It was insane,” he said.

Based in Johnsonville, he said he and fellow firefighters were travelling along roads “where there was literally trees falling down all around us”.

“We were attending properties where people still hadn’t evacuated. That’s the point we’ve been trying to make: get out, because you put volunteers in jeopardy,” he said.

“One man I spoke to refused to get out. There’s no laws compelling people to leave, but it was too dangerous for us stay, so we left.”

All in all, though, the community has embraced the efforts of the South Gippsland firefighting contingent. 

“There’s been a lot of good support from the locals up there. They all waves as our trucks pass,” he said.  

Mr Hillis said the intensity of the blaze was “on a par” with Hazelwood open cut mine fire of 2014, the savage blaze that took 45 days to extinguish and blanketed the region in ash.

“There were embers coming of trees and flying 60 to 80 metres. That’s scary, because it’s going to be like that for a while,” he said.

Ruby firefighter, Michael Guest, who returned last week from the fire grounds only to leave on a hay run to East Gippsland on Sunday.

Speaking on Friday before the expected horror weekend, he said, “Everyone’s on edge.”

“We were in a place called Sarsfield. We went down this little road just to check and we found a house on its own that was still standing. There was a woman sitting on the front step, so I went to check she was alright,” he said.

“She said, ‘I feel so guilty.’ She had a timber house that was hardly scratched and there were two brick houses behind her that were gone. She said, ‘Why is my house still standing when the others have gone?’

“I said, just be grateful yours is still standing. Quite a few firefighters told stories like that. There was no pattern to it. Some houses were barely touched, while others were just gone.” 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=30632

Posted by on Jan 7 2020. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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