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ANONYMOUS. For myself - and in the terms of a bushfire brigade

much the mid-day events. At that stage I didn’t really

those storms had originated. What we drove into on

volunteer- the Tuesday of the Esperance fires started out

appreciate how severe the situation was.

Grigg Road, the rolling wall of smoke, almost a tidal

in an unassuming manner. Our unit began the day with a

wave, looked just like those dust storms I had witnessed

stint down at Merivale, and our attendance there proved

After resupplying in Gibson, we stopped briefly at a crew

to be fairly standard. There was nothing that really

member’s property to drop off a vehicle. In doing so

niggled of the events to come.

we exchanged places with the other heavy unit in our

Finally, we started to clear the smoke, and as we did so

convoy, which meant our unit then brought up the rear.

we could see the emergency lights of the fire unit ahead

One of our crew drove, with a second crew member

On the way up, our usual conversations continued. One

of us. We came out of the smoke completely. Suddenly

seated in the passenger side, whilst myself and our

of the crew told stories about when he was a youngster

we were pretty much underneath the fire. The main front

fourth crew member rode on the back, manning the

on the family farm. He related his experience of a fire

was no more than 300 metres away.

water. We were in a low-pressure area and a fairly low

he had seen, that was so ferocious it had gone straight

stress situation. Certainly, things were going wrong on

back over ground that had already been burnt bare.

The fire unit that had been ahead of us was already

the coast, with a loss of a bulldozer and much more

Little did we know how much that story would relate to

heading towards us and it became clear that what was

intensive asset protection, but where we were it was

our own experience.

in the background on the UHF was turn around and go

essentially a sand dune and heathland fire backing onto

as a youngster.

back. I can say with certainty that we did a quick-smart

pasture. The usual banter carried on, as those on the

We soon reached Scaddan townsite and turned down

about-face behind it. I wasn’t overly impressed with how

back picked on the drivers gear changes, and we all

Grigg Road, to be surrounded by really thick smoke. Still,

deep the gutters were on the road, as we went very close

contributed to the general conversation - about everyday

as we sat in the cab, the run of the mill conversation

to tipping over.

stuff - that was normal for our unit.

continued between us. We conversed over the sound of constant coastal chatter on the yellow fire radio, which

By the time we turned around the fire had passed us.

As the day progressed, we saw more and more smoke

had been non-stop. Underneath it all our own UHF could

I’m not sure if it had turned a fraction, but the front was

coming from the north. I remember at one stage hearing

just be heard. We drove on surrounded by the smoke,

running down the side of the road. My eyes were met with

a radio call from there, that had managed to cut through

the conditions we could see through the window of the

the sight of swirling tongues of flame that stretched past

all the other chatter. It said something along the lines of

cab, like something from a childhood memory.

us by 50 to 60 feet. We were doing 70 to 80kph before

“we’re losing it”. About an hour after that call, we were

we managed to get back out in front of it. It was definitely

told that we were heading up to assist at the northern

I grew up in the Victorian mallee, and as a kid I can

hot in the cab, but at that moment I wasn’t appreciating

fire. One of our crew stayed on at Merivale but the rest

remember the giant dust storms that hit Melbourne. The

exactly how hot it was.

of us headed off to Gibson to resupply. That was pretty

South Australian and Victorian mallee country was where

pg 138 | ANON.

Profile for shireofesperance

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...

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...