Chainsawing with the SES

by John Robertson

The days following the bad storm brought the Brigade two instances of chainsaw work in conjunction with the SES. The first was on Monday afternoon at the house of a very nice old lady who was living alone. The job was to clear her yard of a fallen tree. Because it was not an ’emergency’ it wasn’t a job the SES would normally do; it may be that we were involved so that SES did not create a precedent for itself. Karen, Nev and Robbo took 52 to the scene. Nev did sterling work on the chainsaw while Karen and Robbo carried the cut up timber to the roadside for collection by Council. We left with heartfelt thanks and a packet of excellent biscuits – which were gone before we reached the Station. For this job we went on to the books of the SES, e.g. had there been an accident SES and not QFRS would have borne the cost of compo.

On Tuesday there was a page for members to go to Brisbane to help the SES there on Wednesday and staying overnight to Thursday. Robbo was it from our Brigade and he was teamed with Mick Pope, 2nd officer of Chambers Flat. On Wednesday morning Robbo picked up Mick from his home and we got to SES HQ at Newmarket by 0730. There were six other rural trucks there – Murphys Creek and Jimboomba among them. We were all sure that we would be sent to the Gap which was nearby, had had a great deal of publicity and was the source of quite a few resident complaints. So we stood around for the obligatory ‘hurry up and wait’. When that was over, the news was that we were needed at Deception Bay SES in Redcliffe. So we drove there in convoy and began another wait.
It proved worth it. Two capable QFRS officers ran the show but did so entirely on SES lines. That is to say every job had a card which was an A4 sheet with details of the name, address and phone number, a description of the problem and a job number. This was the reference for radio messages and other comms. Each crew got three jobs for the morning session and, after lunch at DB SES, another three for the afternoon. The centre of concern was Nerangba suburb. Mick proved to be an excellent Refidex navigator in an area which neither of us knew at all. Robbo was the one with the chainsaw certificate. We had expected to be working in pouring rain and it was great to be in nice, sunny conditions instead.
Nerangba was an eyeopener. There had been no publicity and no complaints from there but the damage was extensive – far more in total than on the Mountain. We passed hundreds of houses with large piles of sawn-up trees on the verges. The residents had rapidly got together to help themselves and their neighbours recover. They had done a remarkable job. It was low-key, Aussie resourcefulness at its best.
From our point of view it did mean that the remaining problems were the hard ones; e.g., big diameter trees down in tricky places such as across a boundary fence or onto a roof. That notwithstanding TM41 and the other rural teams got stuck in and made rapid progress. It was a help that none of the timber was entangled in power lines. The SES doctrine is that they deal with emergencies only. A blocked access, a tree fallen onto a building, a damaged roof or anything in an unstable and unsafe state is an emergency. A tree down in a yard is just an inconvenience. Equally the SES leaves cut-up timber where it lies. Residents have to take it to the road verge.
A resident’s permission is required before entering any property. When they are at home it is easy but for our jobs most people were not in. So Mick had a busy time on the phone making contact. Permission to enter was always given most readily. Thanks to Mick’s good navigation and to high speed sawing with 41’s excellent Husqvarna we finished our morning jobs ahead of time. We were then tasked to help an SES crew of six whose job was to tarp a roof which was surrounded by several fallen trees. The SES truck did not have a chainsaw and no one qualified to use it anyway. So we did that job and got a big thank you from the SES and from the home owner.
In the afternoon we again finished early. Murphys Creek 52 had a difficult job and we were sent to help them. After that we had to patrol some 5 km of road to see if there were any blocked driveways or similar difficulties. Happily there were not. So back to DB SES for a tip top barbie provided by the Lions Club of Deception Bay and for some really good chat with other brigade members. There was no de-brief but many thank yous from the SES and QFRS guys. We had been rostered to stay the night but all the work for the RFBs was completed so we headed back at 1830, dropping off Mick at home on the way. He is an excellent bloke and a pleasure to work with. 41 was back in the shed at 2000 to end a long but very satisfactory and satisfying day.
Posted in Incident Reports