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“A STORY OF TWO BUSHFIRES” - WILL CARMODY - CONT. Captain of the Cascade Volunteer Bushfire Brigade. Will was Senior Fire Control Officer for Shire of Esperance West Zone 2. Incident Control Officer with Shire of Esperance at Level 1 fire.

The next five hours were chaotic and overall, I was just

if the fire closed in from the north, people getting

trying to manage what was going on. We moved down the

evacuated from Grass Patch up to Salmon Gums would

western side with the fire, door knocking and evacuating

have no way out. Once again the failing communications

if people weren’t defending. Once the fire passed, other

made it incredibly difficult to discern where the second

parts of the convoy were coming in behind to try and

fire front actually was. At about 6pm we sent fire crews

help save property or mop up spot fires.

up Rollond Road to protect towards Salmon Gums. However, conditions had moderated and we found other

At 4.20pm we finally got communication through to the

teams were already working up there.

tracking team, who had been cut off from the rest of the fire crews. They had spent the afternoon isolated and

It wasn’t until 8pm that evening that I was advised by

without communication, trying to retrace their route back

good friends that Freddy had died. I was also told of the

out from the pad in the bush they had sheltered on. They

loss of three other lives. I held grave fears that there would

finally joined the rest of the crews around 5 or 6pm, and

be more fatalities. The thought haunted me; I didn’t know

were stunned with what they learnt had occurred.

what the final number would be. At 11pm, I briefed an officer from DFES about the fire and operations that were

By this stage communication was terrible, and we had

being conducted at the time, before eventually making

limited information on where the fire front was. I also

my way back home to the farm.

needed to verify the information that we did have. I sent individual units to scout out and confirm the fire front’s

Around 5am the next morning, I met up with Gavin

exact location and report back. Once they came back

Gibson and we went up for a fly. By air, the vastness of

with the position, we transferred the location onto an area

the fire scar was staggering. In some areas, it stretched

map I had managed to set up. This way we were able to

as far as you could see. The plane was flying at 200

define the fire’s perimeter and infer its movements.

kph, and yet we seemed to continue passing over the devastated tracts of land for an inordinate amount of

During the afternoon, an evacuation point had also been

time. Patches of properties still smouldered and burned,

IMAGE (above & opposite): The agricultural landscape

set up at Salmon Gums Primary School. Approximately

spot fires scattered through massive stretches of blowing

on Wednesday morning, showing the scale and ferocity

150 people were sheltered there, as fires raged to both the

sand and charred paddock. All up, the fire had run 107

of the fire. White areas are paddocks denuded and

north and southwest. I was immediately concerned that

kilometres in length over the course of one day.

already drifting. Photographer: Will Carmody.


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