by Roger Sutton
After another week of local brigades fighting a major fire which was gradually encroaching on the eastern suburbs of Rockhampton, more assistance was called for from the SE region and another task force formed. Fifteen volunteers from Gatton, Ripley Valley, Kalbar, Chambers Flat, Gold Coast and Tamborine Mountain were bussed and flown to a smoke shrouded Rocky on Saturday 17 October.
Our arrival was greeted with an immediate deployment to critically threatened houses on the outskirts and sporadic flash fires in the city parks, a condition that continued throughout the next four days as the swirling easterly winds delivered hot embers from the Mt Archer range above.
Sunday had all resources fully stretched defending houses and containing the northern boundary south of the Yepoon road. A break over that would have meant a much larger campaign. Some crews reported extreme events close to homes, while isolated outbreaks were rumoured to have been the work of an arsonist.
Monday’s milder conditions and lighter winds gave some respite but Tuesday saw the fire sweep around the mountain flanks and into further tinder dry suburbs. As part of an urban auxiliary crew for two days Roger participated in many hectic actions, including draining swimming pools, having a bath of ‘bomber’ delivered foam and backburning 800 meters along a rural ridge.
We were modestly housed but well fed by a highly stressed command team of professionals who had to make numerous quick redeployment decisions in a very tough environment.
The arrival of 25 NSW firefighters as the fuel burned out and things wound down allowed us to head home for a welcome rest on Wednesday. Perhaps we will meet them in their State later.