by John Robertson
The weekend of 2/3rd August brought fires at Kaiser and Mystery Roads which are in adjoining valleys on the south-east of the Mountain. The Kaiser Road wildfire started on Saturday 2nd and was towards the upper part of the road and on its western side. Yet another permitted burn had escaped!
About half of the very steeply sloping 20 hectare property was alight. The page came at 14:15 and TM52 with TM1 (John) and Robbo were on the scene within 30 minutes. Manuel joined 52 at the fire. TM51 followed shortly after with Roger and Karen and they were joined by Ken. This meant that officers outnumbered the troops on scene by 4 to 3. The Auxiliaries were already at the roadside gate with Pete Mason in charge but access to the fire-front needed our 4-WD’s. We controlled and contained the fire on its southern and western flanks by which time 52’s water was empty. Local knowledge (Robbo) took us to an inconspicuous but convenient culvert under the road where we did a case 4. Then we returned and, with 51 and the Auxiliaries, back-burned the eastern and northern flanks. The fire was well contained round the edges but several stags and stumps were still burning. At the debrief on site, Manuel was commended for the first rate job he had done. We were back at the Station by 17:30.
At 21:00 the fire broke out again. Rory and Barry went in 52 to mop it up. They did so and got back at 23:25. On checking at 0300 on Sunday several bright red spots were evident along the northern edge of the Kaiser fire. On their way to the Mystery Road burn briefing in TM52 at 0700 on Sunday morning Roger and Rory checked the Kaiser scene and it appeared okay.
At 07:30 Roger and Rory with 52 attended the Mystery Road briefing. The prescribed burn was along the south side of MR and covered about 25 hectares. The operation was part of a commercial contract which QFRS has with Gold Coast CC. Nine trucks and about a score of firefighters took part. Around 10:30 TM51 arrived with Barry and Mal. Robbo came from the coast and, after an initial spell on an I-Zone truck, joined 52 so we had 2 trucks and 5 firefighters on site. The site is a difficult one being very steep and rocky with about a dozen houses set in an arc around the top of the slope. (Given the dry conditions the initial protective backburn next to those houses would, ideally, have been done early in the day when relative humidity was high so making the burn comparatively gentle.) In the event it began about midday when humidity was low, flammability high and smoke from the molasses grass understory dense. The fire generated its own uphill wind so that firefighters and householders alike got maximum exposure to the smoke.
About midday a page and phone calls from Tony called us to attend the fire at Kaiser Road which had again broken out. The OIC rightly ruled that both 51 and 52 must stay at the Mystery Road fire and leave it to others to take care of Kaiser. The others were the Auxiliaries, TM41 with Paul and Karen and a Birnam truck which was at the TM Auxiliary station for fire comp training. On Karen’s advice the entire perimeter and all the hot stags and stumps were very thoroughly doused with foam. This put the Kaiser Road fire to bed once and for all. 41 left the Station at 12:50 and returned at 16:30.
Back at Mystery Road, 51 and 52’s role was to protect houses from the fire burning below them. At one point while TM52 was calmly keeping the fire clear of one house an urgent call came to save a house (under the care of another brigade) which was ‘on fire’. We dropped our hoses and raced to the threatened house which belonged to Joe Bugner the famous boxer. The house was not on fire but it was very nearly so. However, TM52 and its crew led by Roger saved the day! TM51 and 52 spent the next hour transferring water to an I-Zone truck (1,000 litre capacity). The operator was using the high pressure hose to very good effect but lost the benefit of water economy by also running a 25 mm layflat. Hence the need for refills. Water re-supply required more driving than it should have because the designated tank on Mystery Road soon ran dry; hardly surprising since it had been about three parts empty to start with! The 20,000 litre static tank at Rosser Park became the water source for both Rural and QFRS units.
About 1600 a team led by Guanaba 52 as the ignition truck followed by TM52 headed down the very steep bush track on the southern flank of the area lighting up as we went. 52’s role was to wet down the edge of the burn and look out for spot-overs. This we did and reached the end of our section of the burn at about 18:00. TM51 had left earlier. We made our way out along a narrow bush track which was lined on one side by a long string of old cars parked nose to tail (strange!) making for a very tight squeeze in places. After a pizza supper TM52 re-filled with water and headed for the Station.
The Mystery Road fire continued burning well into the week. On Wednesday the smoke got so thick that the Auxiliaries were turned out. The householders deserve praise for their steady forbearance in drawn-out, disagreeable conditions. At both fires the Brigade did a first rate job on all the tasks assigned to it.