Magnetic Burnoff & Power Parade Possum
by John Robertson
On Sunday 24th August Brigade members assembled for a hazard reduction burn in an area of about 300 metres by 100 just to the north of Magnetic Drive. All three trucks and crews assembled for a briefing on site (see photo). Wil was the organiser and Paul (TM2) was OIC. The area is a tricky one with the usual steep slopes, several houses on the fringe and the potential for a major fire running all the way to Kinabalu if the burn escaped its containment lines.
By the same token the burnt area will now be a valuable firebreak in the event of a wildfire in this area. Conditions were very good, dry but not too dry, RH around 40% and a light and variable breeze. In the shelter of the forest this meant that the surface wind at any fire location was uphill – whatever direction that happened to be. Using a Bobcat with blade, the owner had created a system of internal bush tracks, accessible by our trucks, which proved invaluable throughout the burn.
The first move was to do a test burn at the northern end of the area on a contained ‘island’ created by the Bobcat. While this was being done by 52 and 41 the crew from 51 used rakehoe and blower to create an earth break between the eastern fringe of the area to be burnt and the adjacent property. The test burn went well with flame height around 1 metre and the control lines working effectively so the main burn was started. In places this required further rakehoe work by the whole team to protect properties, Trucks refilled with water via 51’s portable pump set up on the tank at the owner’s house. At lunch time John and Jan Fisher arrived with picnic table, super ham rolls, cake, tea and coffee. Crews took staggered breaks to enjoy the spread and then continued their tasks.
By 15:30 the job was done and we assembled again for a debrief and for more of John and Jan’s goodies (see photo
). Paul thanked the whole team in emphatic terms. In turn Paul and Wil were congratulated on a job well planned and well done. John and Jan were thanked for the excellent eats. All trucks having been comprehensively re-commissioned we stood down (or so we thought) at 16:20.
At 16:40 when most of the team had gone home but Robbo and Roger were still at or near the Station we were paged to a grass fire said to be on Main Western Road near the White Road junction. The Auxiliaries were also paged. R and R made a prompt response in 52 and Barry and Geoff came all the way back from home to crew 51. It was hard to locate the incident partly because it was on Power Parade (not MWR) and partly because the general smokiness drifting from Magnetic Drive made it was hard to spot. Helped by directions from a passing ambo 52 arrived first on scene to a very small grass fire along a fence line beside the road. We had the fire out before the Auxiliaries arrived – unusual for a simultaneous page. 51 arrived as back up. The fire threatened a large tree which enveloped a power pole with a transformer on top of it.
The cause of the fire was a mystery until Peter Mason drew attention to a big but very dead possum far up on the top of the transformer. Apparently the animal had jumped from the tree onto the transformer and in so doing had shorted across the power lines. It was killed but caused enough sparks to fall onto to the dry grass to start the fire. Peter reported the situation to Energex. We stood down by 17:45. Busy Sunday!