Page 36

IAN HARTLEY’S STORY - CONT. Quarry Road Bushfire Brigade Esperance Fire & Rescue Brigade

This changed within a few breaths. “John copy, the fire

he hadn’t heard it correctly. Some of the comments that

John pointed the truck up the hill ready to follow, we were

front is standing up,” was my call to John and I don’t

were muttered around our truck you couldn’t put on

in the correct formation, heavy unit behind the machine,

know what was said on the other channel, but I was

paper. This was going pear shaped very quickly. They

sector commander sitting back giving directions from a

ordered back to the truck for protection of the grader.

needed crews out at Cascade.

high spot to see where the machine was tracking to and keeping him on course.

It was hectic for about half an hour, fire just erupting

Crews started checking over their trucks and gearing up

alongside of you when you’re standing on the ground

to travel out to the west of Esperance. Peter and his crew

storing stuff on the truck, people yelling to get out. John

from Condy came past on their 4.4 needing some foam.

opened the door and said we would stay with Tom and

I asked John and we gave them a couple of spare drums

From our vantage point you could see the flames starting

Todd and be the last truck out of the paddock, having

off our truck with a quick word of be careful, then they

to see-saw, stand up, lay down, stand up and then lay

more water and a bigger pump. Plus, the grass was

were gone.

over the other way. Then, between the chatter on the

better than being in four-metre-high wattle. Andy and

Then the wind change hit.

radio from Tom and Murray, the words we all fear; “F$#K

I both heartily agreed. We drove to Annie’s Lane and

I’m not sure of the time at this stage, but it was assumed

IT, Tom I’m bogged! Going to need that D8 back here to

Stockyards Road intersection, passing the dozers

that the main fire had done its run, and crews were split

pull me out with a chain.” John advised that we better get

and the trucks tasked to protect them, to regroup and

up, some down to Stockyards Road to help mop-up,

ready to run hose. We started to guide him as he needed

reassess the situation.

others down Annie’s Lane. Tom took our 2.4 and the light

to do a three point turn so the back of the truck was at

tanker. We were going to run a break across the north-

the fire.

We simply had to wait, with machines all parked up,

eastern edge, back around Bannitup Lake to the other

crews wanting to go down Stockyards Road to help but

fire scar, to have a safe containment line for a back burn

Todd ran past us and up the dune. “F$#k this I’m out

the fire had gone across, cutting of our access. We were

around the lakes. We all concurred it was a good plan. It’s

of here,” came the call from the stricken dozer - that

sitting in the shade of the trucks having some down time,

times like this that you truly appreciate the experienced

was Murray’s last words over the UHF in that machine.

drinks, yarning to different brigades.

machine operators for their skill and judgement. Murray

Andy continued to guide John while I followed Todd up

picked his line and we headed around the edge of the

the dune. A green tunic arm came into view and Todd

I was sitting in the cab listening to the command channel

fire scar up to the top of the dune and then he dropped

grabbed it, helping Murray over the top just as the wind

and heard control give Will at Cascade a weather

out of sight down into the valley. The swamp was further

hit. Then a heartbeat behind that, the heat hit us. It was

update. “Wind change to out of the northwest gusting to

over to the east but the ground was very soft. “Just wait

something else - and we were on the protected side of

100 kilometres an hour.” There was a good 15 second

there till I push a bit of a flat area in and a turnaround

the dune. Tom had been calling Murray over the radio ‘to

pause before Will asked them to repeat it as he thought

point will ya!” was the call over the UHF from Murray.

get his arse over here,’ he was now telling us all in the

pg 34 | ian hartley

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