Inverloch family flees fire
AN INVERLOCH family is lucky to be home safe after making the decision to leave their camping spot only a day before it was destroyed by the Gippsland bushfires.
Rod and Tennille Hall were camping with their three children at the Montana Campground between Glenmaggie and Licola last week and without phone reception, were unaware of any fire threat.
Ms Hall said they were due to return home last Friday, but decided to leave a day early after seeing smoke in the distance.
“We were down at the river and we saw what looked like just a cloud coming over the mountain, but then the sun went orange and we realised it wasn’t,” she said, adding they couldn’t even smell the smoke.
“My husband went to the top of a hill where we had (phone) service and said he thought the fire was about 35 to 40 kilometres away and the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. The CFA hadn’t put a warning out for us but it was a hot day and they were expecting a wind change.
“After Black Saturday, we decided it wasn’t worth it.”
Ms Hall said as they packed up their camping site, ash started to fall, and only four hours later, an emergency warning was issued for Heyfield and Glenmaggie.
“At midnight, the CFA said they expected the area to be under threat by 6am, which included us,” she said.
“By around midday or 1pm on Friday, fire went through our campground.”
The family went to stay with family in Sale, where fellow evacuees were also sent.
“After Black Saturday, if you can see smoke and wind, people don’t take that risk anymore,” Ms Hall said.
“We were in no hurry, but we’re very glad we packed up when we did.”
The fires raging across Gippsland are a stark reminder of the 2009 fires that burnt closer to home, according to local CFA volunteers.
Members from brigades across South Gippsland and Bass Coast travelled to towns including Heyfield and Glenmaggie last week to help battle the bushfires.
Leongatha Fire Brigade Captain Tristan Morton-Pedersen described scenes at Glenmaggie as similar to the Darlimurla fire a week before Black Saturday almost four years ago.
“The fire front was too big to stop, so we were focusing on asset protection and chasing it from house to house,” he said.
Trucks from Inverloch, Loch and Leongatha, with crew members from Mirboo North, Leongatha, Loch, Moe and Warragul, headed to Heyfield after receiving an emergency page at 4.40am on Friday.
Mr Morton-Pedersen said upon arrival, they were immediately dispatched for asset protection at Glenmaggie.
“We were there for maybe an hour-and-a-half before the fire hit and then we were just basically chasing fires for the rest of the day,” he said.
“At one stage, the winds were gusting in some of the areas we were at 80 to 90km per hour.”
Mr Morton-Pedersen said the crew were at one stage sent to protect a house at the top of Old Joe’s Road in Glenmaggie, with only 15 minutes to prepare before the fire hit.
“The front came through fanned by those sorts of winds,” he said.
“We were probably fighting it for two hours solid. We saved the house and most of the shedding, but because we were limited on water and resources, we had to let things like outhouses and fences burn.
“The paling fence around the house was completely destroyed.”
The Leongatha captain said they were also assisted by loads of water dropped on them by Elvis and other helicopters, which helped the firefighters get on top of the blaze.
Mr Morton-Pedersen praised the team for their hard work during the main front of the fire.
“Honestly, we were the main resource in Glenmaggie in the morning when the fire came through,” he said.
“The five South Gippsland trucks that went had really good crews and made a really good team that worked well together with good leadership.”
Brigades from the Bass Coast Group, including Wonthaggi, Dalyston, Bass, Kernot, Kilcunda, San Remo, Phillip Island and Corinella, also contributed to the cause, sending trucks and crews to fight the Gippsland fires.
Wonthaggi Fire Brigade Captain Kim O’Connor said Wonthaggi had a tanker crew based out of Heyfield yesterday (Monday) as well as an Ultra Light tanker with a crew, and expected to send two more crews later this week.
“The main focus at the moment is to utilise the cooler change to try and get some containment lines in for the upcoming weather later in the week,” Mr O’Connor said, adding there were concerns the fire was heading towards the Baw Baw National Park.
“They’re trying to do back burning at the moment, so with the forecast wind change and hot weather, hopefully the containment lines will hold.”
CFA volunteers have had a busy few weeks, with members from the region also flying to Tasmania to assist with firefighting efforts.
Mr O’Connor, along with fellow Wonthaggi member Peter Dell, were recently stationed on the Tasman Peninsula just outside of Dunalley, a town ravaged by fire.
Mr O’Connor said volunteers were happy to help wherever needed, not only within their own area.
“We work on the philosophy we’re all one CFA; there’s no boundaries,” he said.
“We all work together because when it comes down to it, we’re all one country and one world. Some volunteers fly around the world to help each other. It’s just a common thing.”
He also said the bushfires are a strong reminder to residents that lighting any fires without permission is currently illegal.
“The amount of people still burning off around the place in fire danger areas is ridiculous, and people have been reporting them because everyone is so paranoid when they see smoke” he said.
“People need to remember if we attend fires people are lighting, they’re going to be charged. We’re taking a zero tolerance to it. It is stupid that people are still lighting fires unless they’ve got a permit to do it, considering the current climate and conditions.”
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