Page 134

TOM BROWN I was harvesting on our property Hill Plains, when I

conditions. As a farmer I also watched the weather

I was tasked with putting in place fire and movement

received the call that really started the 2015 fire events

constantly, being at its mercy throughout the seasons.

bans for the shire, so I kept this all in mind. As a rule,

for me. It was the afternoon on Monday 16th, when the

But in all my time, I had never come across a forecast

I try to keep everyone in an area harvesting right up

local DFES office contacted me regarding the fire that

like the one I had received for the following day. The set

until a ban, when fire danger becomes too great. It’s the

had been burning in bushland up at Cascade. By about

of conditions predicted were extremely unusual, and

best possible way of keeping producers observing and

3pm that afternoon I had driven into Myrup Fly-In Estate,

thoroughly disconcerting.

informed of conditions. When people are still out there,

and after jumping into the chopper we were on the way up to Cascade.

they are aware of the situation and the weather occurring. Keeping in mind that you never know if the forecast will

They can notice lightning strikes from storm events or

be right or wrong, we spent a good few hours going

building smoke from fires. The aim is to keep the area

Once on site we landed to pick up Will Carmody, before

over different scenarios. Amongst other things, we talked

focused on the weather coming – by keeping them out in

flying out to observe the fire front. Ash Stewart and I then

about the number of units Cascade may need if the fire

the paddock, keeping things moving, keeping producers

waited on the ground as the chopper did a second run

emerged. Cascade is a sparsely populated area, and

aware of what’s happening around them. It keeps people

over the fire with Paul Carmody and Brian Welke. Being in

during the middle of harvest there is probably 15 to 20km

thinking, and they are less likely to head inside or off the

the air allowed the guys to get a good aerial perspective

between headers. Most of the farms are operated by

property and ignore the day.

of what they were dealing with and assisted them with

small family units, with many of the machines driven by

formulating a plan of attack for the following day. After

backpackers, unused to Australian fire conditions. The

On Tuesday, I ran the harvest ban scheds as planned. It

finishing up, we dropped the guys back down before

district could not hope to cope with the magnitude of

was a very calm morning, and out west the fire was still in

heading back to Esperance.

what could come at them.

the bush. As the day heated up, the Merivale fire started to give grief and I was soon up in the chopper, watching

Once back, I headed to the DFES office, catching up

Strangely enough, the weather leading up to the forecast

with Gavin Warnes and debriefed him on the situation in

had been fairly mild. Sunday had been warm, but a bit

the building fire go roaring towards the national park.

Cascade. We talked in length about plans going forward,

cloudy, and Monday was quite cool. It had been patchy

The on-ground efforts at Merivale were in full swing.

with great emphasis on the forecast for the next day.

weather to harvest in and producers around the region

However, because of the smoke and difficult terrain, the

had been hampered by the conditions. Tuesday was

volunteer fighters were unsure of whether it was safe to

The forecast which I had received for Tuesday was

predicted to start out cool and calm- a good harvesting

get in to assist. At one stage, I asked the chopper to drop

nothing short of extraordinary. I had been a bushfire

morning - before we were to be hit by this amazing stream

down, and we picked up one of the firies. We lifted him

officer for around 24 years, during which time I had

of hot air that was coming down from the Goldfields.

up and flew him around for a few minutes, so he could

been responsible for monitoring and recording weather

pg 132 | TOM BROWN

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