Knoll National Park Burn

TMRFB Knoll Burn 2009_600x404by John Robertson

IMG_3438(1)_450x600This long planned and oft postponed burn started on 10th September 2009. A formidable force assembled for briefing at the Knoll NP car park at 0900. In addition to several Queensland Parks and Wildlife trucks and crews we had all three TMRFB trucks, the new CF61 tanker, both Urban trucks, one I-zone truck, a Council water tanker and a professional traffic control team on the Tamborine Mountain road.  Wil Buch – a Brigade member but wearing a Parks hat – advised the IMT and Jenny was a member of the team. John H (TM1) was sector A (the RFB sector) commander. The I-zone truck was in sector A with a QFRS driver plus Don and Peter Q as crew.

In the event the burn extended over four days with additional major burning on Friday plus patrols and minor call outs from dawn to after dusk on Saturday and Sunday.  Some of us had it pretty easy but some had to work really hard. The following members took part on one or more of the four days:

John H (TM1)       Paul (TM2)            Roger (TM3)         Karen (TM4)         Tony (Base Radio)              Wil Kim             John F                Don            Malcolm               Julian                  Rory             David                  Mal P Peter Q                  Chris               Geoff                  Jenny                 Robbo

The burn called on most RFB skills; rakehoe, wet line, drip torch, extinguishing fire with water or foam, refilling with water by portable pump or from Holt Road, responding to pager calls (sparked by concerned residents or passers-by), standing ready to protect property, patrolling, monitoring, chainsawing and radio comms. Some of us also used a Parks’ catapult (just like a kid’s) to fire incendiary pellets into the bush. Our Brigade’s assigned sector A, as shown on the map, was the south-western part of the area running from just east the waste transfer station to just east the Songbirds entrance on the Tamborine Mountain Road.

In the written brief the speed of fire advance on level ground was predicted to be between 200 and 13m/hour on flat to down-sloping ground, but up to 3,200 m/hour on a 40 degree upslope, and this was emphasized during the verbal briefing. Plugging the midday conditions into a fire meter showed that this theoretical speed was somewhat overstated on this occasion. In our sector the difference between theory and practice was even greater; two hours after ignition and generous use of drip torch fuel, the fire had barely advanced five metres.

The reason was simple; the path along which we were assigned to burn was a mass of succulent vines or dense lantana and is on the edge of a sandstone cliff. One way way to get the main area to burn was to light from below and not from above. This was done on Friday and was both safe and successful.

Several property owners in our sector had felled a lot of trees, up to 1 metre in diameter and up to 30 metres long, and piled them just beyond their boundaries. These did respond to the ignition and burnt intensely through to Sunday. Then we extinguished them – but with an exception. One enterprising resident used his burning pile as a big incinerator to destroy the thick lantana which he cut along his frontage and burnt on the glowing logs.

The burn created a lot of interest among the leadership of QFRS and QPWS. Jenny reported that on the first day a succession of senior officers, including Peter Ryan, the Regional Director, visited the IMT. The Secretary to the Minister for Emergency Services also came.

The residents we spoke to adjacent to the burn all welcomed the hazard reduction and well understood its necessity. When we had to delay traffic on the roads (see photos,and 2) the great majority of drivers were understanding, patient and glad to see the work being done.  But there is always the odd man out; Rory  had a close encounter of an aggro kind with a couple of self-centered and very impatient individuals.

Grub was variable. On Thursday we all went in rotation to the SES depot and had a good feed. The Friday crew missed out as Parks forgot about food for the TMRFB crew. Parks has asked to be specifically reminded of the need to feed non-Parks crews on similar occasions in future. We made up for it on Saturday as Jan Fisher took things in hand and served us a feast rather than a feed. Thank you Jan!

In addition to the main game there were two activations which had separate Firecom numbers. Both were to chainsaw fallen or about-to-fall trees. The first was early on Friday morning; a very large dead tree had been burned at its base and threatened to fall onto the road traffic near Thunderbird Park. When everything was ready to go Rory and Don blocked off the road with 51 and 52 – a medium across the road fairly beats a STOP/SLOW for this job! Wil cut down the tree which fell with an almighty crash right across the bitumen. Wil, Robbo and another Parks guy cut it into logs which were hauled off the road. By chance the three of us were going up and down in unison as we sawed. A bystander said it was the first time he had seen sychronised chainsawing!

Early on Saturday we were called to another tree in the same area. This (smaller) one had fallen and had clipped a car but had not caused injury. John H and Peter Q regulated traffic with STOP/SLOW signs; Malcolm did the chainsawing while Wil and Robbo cleared the logs. Malcolm was really on song and he then felled another potentially dangerous tree in just the right position to be clear of the road. Then Wil asked us to hose the base of yet another tree. It was on the top of the 5 metre high, steep, crumbly bank which adjoins the road. Climbing it would have been no fun so Malcolm suggested standing on top of the tank and using the hose from there. Robbo did so and it worked a treat; reminiscent of the water cannon on top of TM13 in years gone by.

High humidity from late Sunday onwards finally brought an end to this incident. During the four days, the Brigade was in action for up to 16 hours each day or night. The response was consistently excellent and reflects much credit all round.

Posted in Incident Reports