by John Robertson
Just after training was finished on Wednesday 23rd September 2009 a page came to go to a re-ignition within the area of the Knoll burn. All three trucks responded with full crews. John F manned the Station radio and the crews comprised John H (TM1), Neville, Peter W, Robbo, Don, Barry and Geoff.
It was a time of very high fire danger, a total fire ban and a heavy dust cloud over all of SEQ. Members of the public were commendably alert and reported any sighting of smoke, flames or a red glow somewhere out in the forest – especially at night. Firecom paged us to all of those reports and that caused three separate activations of the Brigade over the 23rd and 24th. Notwithstanding that those ‘fires’ were well in the black and harmless it was important to respond effectively to public concern and the Brigade did this. It meant that the burn was still active a fortnight after it began.
The cause was typically a hollow log or stump which was burning gently and invisibly on the inside but came to life with the strong wind and very dry conditions. There were hundreds of such objects within the burnt area but most were totally ‘out’. The hardest job when we were activated was to find where the ‘fire’ was. Just driving along the road did not work; we had to get out and walk, sniffing for smoke as we went. Peter W and Nev were the successful spotters. In the dark, teams extinguished the two separate objects with hose or backpack (Don) and rakehoe. This done we returned to the Station – via Holt Road for water as required. We stood down at 2230.
On Thursday morning pages were flying like confetti; GO, STOP, GO again, GO differently and so forth, but all were to respond to reports of re-ignition seen from the Tamborine Mountain Road. They resolved themselves into two separate activations – one to interrupt breakfast and one lunch. All three trucks responded on each occasion. The members involved in one or both of these were; John H (TM1), Roger (TM3), Neville, Rory, Barry, Peter Q and Robbo with Tony on Base Radio. In the morning TM1 tasked 41 to patrol the track between Songbirds and the Knoll Road waste dump – a wise precaution as water was needed to suppress incipient re-ignition along the edge of the track. From that vantage point, what had not been burnt (80% perhaps) was much more obvious than what had been.
The next page brought more of the same with ‘fire’-spotting again the name of the game. TM52 located a very dangerous, leaning tree which had dropped down into the hole created by its burning stump. TM1 alerted Parks to the problem. Barry did sterling work with the backpack. We stood down from the second stint at 1355. It would be nice to think that this is the end of the Knoll Road burn but that depends on the weather. The Brigade did its bit again – tomorrow brings a visit by AFAC delegates who will be hosted and fed by our members. No rest!
Come the evening of Saturday 26th we got yet another page at 1910 to this same area to assist the Auxiliaries who were already on scene. John H (TM1), Robbo and Peter W went in 52, Don stood in ready reserve at the Station and Tony ran a busy Base radio. We met the Auxiliaries led by Peter Mason between Songbirds and Thunderbird Park. The fire this time was much larger than the previous re-ignitions and consisted of a 5 metre long bed of red hot ‘coals’ between a large fallen tree and one of its big branches which had fallen longways on top of it. With dry conditions and a strong westerly wind there was potential for that to spread sparks across the road and start a fire there. The location was about 50 metres off the road up a crumbly, 30% slope.
At first, attack was by backpack and rakehoe and this was a joint exercise between Auxiliaries and Rurals. John neatly chainsawed off the branch so exposing the fire to full attack. Maso recommended that we use a hose and he himself hauled the two lengths of layflat up the hill.The Auxiliaries did a first rate and much needed job of traffic control with illuminated red wands. About 900 litres of water were required to douse the fire completely. That done 664A returned to Station. TM52 did a patrol up and down the road to Thunderbird Park, refilled with water at Holt Road and was back home at 2117.
Given the strong westerly winds and very low humidity on Sunday that fire could have caused a major problem had it not been extinguished on Saturday. The close cooperation between the two Brigades was crucial in achieving this – and full marks to the passer-by who spotted and reported the fire.