by John Robertson
At 1800 on Friday, 16th October a phone call alerted Robbo to be at Jimboomba RFB at 0700 on Saturday with TM41. He was joined by Graham Randall from Greenbank. With Tom Tate of Jimboomba as team leader we set off for Kilkivan which is a small township about 50 km north-west of Gympie. There used to be a Kilkivan Shire but it is now part of Gympie RC.
Along the way we were joined by a further three mediums including RV52 crewed by a team from Pine Mountain. Between Green Mountain, Pine Mountain and Tamborine Mountain confusion at Firecom Central was complete!
We got to Kilkivan about midday, had lunch and were briefed by the I/C – a QFRS Inspector, Phil Whitting. He took all the vehicles in convoy and showed us on the ground where everything was – most sensible and most welcome. Tom then became I/C. The fire had affected an area roughly 5 km N-S and 4 km E-W and this was divided into a central section 2 x 5 km, Marriotts, and flanks “Plantation” and “Hawkes”. It was like Rocky but the old grass was not so long and conditions not quite so dry as further north.
Backburning had been done by previous crews and again our job was mopping up, blacking out and monitoring carefully. At Marriotts there was a twist in the tail. It is a 1,000 hectare cattle property with a fine Brahman stud as well as commercial cattle. When the first crews were there relations between them and the owner became so hostile that the police were called. As sector commander of Marriotts, Robbo had the task of restoring reasonable relations as well as doing the usual firie thing. Happily we got to the point where the son of the house came on his tractor to open and shut the gates for us and when we left it was to big smiles and enthusiastic thanks from the owner.
Although Graham has only been a year in GRFB he did almost all driving in TM41 which was required to traverse many steep, narrow tracks where the mediums could not go. Slopes were up to 50% often with loose, sharp rocks. He did a very good job. We spent Saturday afternoon and evening on this task then stopped and went to the Goomeri Motel for the night. Very comfortable; we were up at 0600 and on the fireground at 0645. Grub on location and through to evening again. By this time we had doused countless trees and logs but quite a few remained smoldering although they were far into the black. Back to the motel for an excellent dinner, up for an excellent breakfast at 0600 and back to the firegound for one last round up.
Things were good. The humidity had risen and the wind had dropped. So at 0930 we set off for home; initially in convoy but with trucks peeling off to their individual stations as we went along. TM41 was back at our Station by 1330 on Monday 19th. Yet more experience and the chance to meet more good people.The news on Monday night told of a motorbike crash near Kilkivan which started another bush fire but this was quickly extinguished by the local brigade.”