by John Robertson
At 15.30 on Monday, 18th January a page came asking firefighters to ‘advise availability’ for a wildfire on Gould Hill. Where was Gould Hill? A few km north-east of Beaudesert on the Birnam Range as it turned out. It also turned out that ‘advise availability’ meant ‘get to the station now’. John H (TM1), Peter Q and Robbo did just that and set off in TM52 for Gould Hill. John’s new I-phone suggested a route but we took Birnam Range Road rather than Flagstone Creek Road (which the I-phone recommended).
There was a stiff westerly wind and humidity around 40% so fire risk was high but not excessive. The fire area of about 20 hectares is shown on the attached Google map. It was mainly a grass fire in open forest. The unusual feature was the very high proportion of dead trees in the forest. The burning grass set them alight and they burnt through and fell regularly. Some we pushed over when their trunks were nearly burnt through. “Look up and live” was the order of the day. Burning trees lying across the containment lines were a major factor in blacking out the fire.
The fire was thought to have started from a small rubbish burn near the house shown on the map in the SW corner of the fire. The IMT was set up diagonally opposite that point on the road at the NE corner. Bill Purvis, Birnam 1, was OIC. AO guys were there in force with Peta Miller a key part of the IMT. Birnam was the lead brigade with support from other Group units as well as us. The strategy was to contain the fire within safe limits by back-burning inwards from all sides. Our first job was to black out the southern half of the western flank. This needed two tanks of water with both hoses going most of the time. When that was complete we were transferred to the northern flank and tasked to backburn the eastern half along Gould Hill Road while preventing the fire spotting over the road and taking precautions not to set trees near the control line alight.
That done we were then tasked to thoroughly black out the eastern flank (which had already being roughly blacked out) but had several remaining hot spots. Given the westerly wind blowing right across the road a rigorous black out was essential. When that was done we got fill number four from the Urban tanker at the IMT, enthusiastic thanks from Bill Purvis and set off for home at about 2100. This time we went by Flagstone Creek Road (unpleasantly corrugated) and crossed the (other and smaller) Storey Bridge. We were back at the Station at 2135. TM1 congratulated and thanked the team for a smooth operation and that was reciprocated all round. The Brigade is getting better at supporting our neighbours.