Canungra/Clagiriba Wild Fire October 2013

On Tuesday 8th October 2013 at 1400 a page came to help with a wild fire in the Canungra/Clagiriba area. This fire had been burning for days with masses of smoke. It was mainly in inaccessible country on the Army land near Canungra. It had covered around 1,200 hectares, i.e. about 3 Km by 4 Km. which equates to a perimeter of at least 14 Km. Several houses were under threat on the edges of the fire. Conditions were very dry, the fuel load high and the wind brisk which gave flame heights up to 10 metres on the steep slopes.


The two photos give some idea of the fire. As always with firefighters taking photos, when things are at their most exciting and most impressive-looking firies are far too busy to click a camera.

As directed by TM1; Kent,Grai and Robbo went in TM52 and Barry and Paris in TM41. The ICC was at ‘the Mango Tree’ just to the south of the Beaudesert – Nerang Road. There we were split up with TM41 in Sector A and TM52 in Sector B. We were on different frequencies and so had no contact during our time there. This note describes what TM52 did – TM41 did broadly similar work.

There was a good plan in place; i.e. to allow fire to burn freely in the inaccessible country but to give point protection around houses or other vulnerable assets and to monitor closely for spot-overs. Besides its other merits such a plan turns a wild fire into a very effective hazard reduction burn. The final destination and self-extinction point of the fire was the 505 metre high, but unnamed, peak in the area. The other hills in the vicinity were only about 300 metres high.

TM52’s job was to assist in completing and securing Sector Bravo’s part of the long containment line around the fire and to make sure that it did not reach any of the houses which were near the control line. The first job was to chip a 2 metre wide line about 100 metres long to connect our control track to a creek bed and thus form a fire barrier for the houses. It was fortunate that all the containment line did not have to be created in this manner!

That done, we moved up the track towards the 505 metre peak and began a burn inwards towards the peak. We were working off a ridge so most of the burn was downhill. Such were the conditions that from time to time the down-going burn went sideways into unburned forest and the fire then came back up again at full blast. The high flames were often accompanied by ‘fire willies’. An impressive sight and hot! TM52’s offside mirror plastic melted in the heat but our driver, Kent, went calmly about his duty. Even the highest flames were entirely controllable using full pump revs, diagonal attack from maximum range and water strictly to the base of the fire. At no stage did we even come close to having a flash-over or spot-over on our narrow control track.

Our effective fire control went hand in hand with economy of water use. We received repeated queries from the ICC about our water state and they always seemed surprised at how much we had left. When we did need more water (at around 700 litres remaining) refill was by QRT at the Clagiriba RFB Station.

About 1900 dinner was served – courtesy of the Army and to their high standard. It came in sealed, field-service containers and was tasty and nutritious. Thank you ADF!

When our control line was secure and at the monitoring stage we asked to stand down and we were released. We were asked especially if we could return the next day but work commitments on one hand and obligations to the CE set-up on the other meant the answer had to be ‘no’. After a refill at Holt Road we were code 5 at 2130. TM41 stayed an hour longer in sector A and was back at 2230.

It is fair to say that Tuesday 8th marked the transition of that big fire from potentially dangerous to secure and contained. Our Brigade played its full part in that happy progression.

Posted in Incident Reports