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going up to attend. We pumped up our tyres before

tail, reaching along and up into the sky. They were

road before we went past. Then they turned around,

heading back up to Gibson.

probably 20 or 25m high. In those few moments,

pulled in behind us and followed us out.

it was hard to tell the depth of the fire, but the speed We stopped shortly in Gibson, blowing out radiators as

was frightening. The sound was absolutely deafening.

We headed back to the highway as fast as possible. I

the vehicles were struggling with the heat, refuelling and

Most people describe it as the roar of a freight train. We

had no idea where the fire was in relation to us exactly,

checking everything over. I departed the shed in Gibson

couldn’t hear the noise of the truck running because of

as I was concentrating solely on navigating due to the

4.4, followed a few minutes behind by Gibson 2.4, and

the howling wind and roaring fire.

smoke and darkness. The visibility was so bad, I was

then Blake and crew in Gibson 1 brought up the rear. To

hanging over the steering wheel looking down at the

this day I can’t remember whether we were told to take a

In the cab, we had a very quick conversation between the

road to catch glimpses of the white lines and touching

certain route up to Cascade. In any case, I know where

three of us, about whether we would continue up Grigg

the gravel edge. It was the only way to stay on the road.

Cascade is, and I do remember hearing on the radio

Road to Dalyup Road North or whether it was possible

that the fire was via Grigg Road. It took about an hour

to turn around the 4WD truck, which carried 4000 litres

The heat was intense and so dry that somehow, we

drive from Stockyard Road, before we were turning left up

of water. At that stage the fire was still running along the

weren’t even sweating. One of my crew told me that the

Grigg Road. I was still driving the lead vehicle.

side of the road.

door to the cab on his side was getting hot. The front was very close to us and I could still barely see in front of the

The drive down Grigg Road was in strong wind and thick

The decision was made extremely quickly. We would turn

cab of the truck.

smoke that obstructed our view. Suddenly we hit clear

around. I proceeded to turn the truck around and was

air and saw the fire front. Strangely enough, we know the

going through the three-point turn, when the truck stalled

My crew told me to put my foot flat to the floor. I replied

exact time we saw the front, as one of the crew members

dead. I hastily re-started the vehicle and got the vehicle

that my foot was flat to the floor, but we were barely doing

had his phone out, and it read 4.13pm. In Blake’s later

around heading back down Grigg Rd for the highway.

60kph and keeping ahead of the front. I couldn’t work out

terminology, it was like ‘going through the gates of hell.’

This moment gets mentioned every now and again at the

why we weren’t moving faster with a tail wind until later,

The fire was only about 300 metres north of us, travelling

fire shed, and has earnt me the occasional nickname of

when I realised that it was the oxygen deprivation caused

from the right-hand side and heading ESE.

‘Turnaround Dave’ or ‘Dave 180’.

by the fire. The fire was literally choking the engine as it used the oxygen to burn.

We could see the flames as soon as we came out of the

We had travelled back about a kilometre when we saw

smoke. It was out in the paddock, reaching towards the

Gibson 2.4, about 200m in front of us. I was straight on

About five minutes after we turned around, I saw Gibson

bush on the right-hand side of the road. About a dozen

the UHF telling them to turn around. I can’t remember

1 stopped at the intersection of Grigg Road and Lover’s

fire devils were spread throughout the fire from front to

them responding but I saw them pull off the side of the

Lane. I told Blake over the UHF that he needed to turn

DAVID MILLS | pg 107

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Our Bushfire Recovery Story  

"Our Bushfire Recovery Story" is a memoir of community strength & resilience. As part of the Recover, Rejuvenate, Restore Project, an invita...

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"Our Bushfire Recovery Story" is a memoir of community strength & resilience. As part of the Recover, Rejuvenate, Restore Project, an invita...