Wongawallan Fire

by John Robertson

Paul has an uncanny knack of organising practical training which foreshadows what we will soon have to do for real. Thus filling the Rosser Park tank from Holt Road on Wednesday evening foreshadowed what we were paged to do at 10:08 on Sunday, 10th August. The page said that the Auxiliaries needed help with water supply at a fire beside Wongawallan Road.

Barry was first at the Station and had everything ready to go when Robbo, Roger and Geoff arrived. These three came from the south end and thus past the Markets which was painfully slow. Barry and Robbo went first in 52 followed shortly by Roger and Geoff in 51. The big new Auxiliary truck was on scene with Tony Trinca in charge. Our Tony was there in his private car as a valuable Base Radio.
At the fire we had to supply water to the Aux truck fast enough to enable it to keep its big hoses flowing. 51 gave 1,600 litres then went to Holt Road to refill while 52 gave 2,000 litres. Just as 52 was finishing 51 returned and 52 went to HR and soon returned with a full tank. Our water supply was more than enough to keep the Auxiliaries pumping to their hoses indefinitely but they decided to empty their tank and hand over the fire to us.
The fire was in a large, long stack of big trees and roots lying across the slope. The trees had been cut down to prepare a new house site. It was not clear how the fire had started but it was not accidental. The site is a very steep slope with upper part being ringed with “tree-change” houses. If the fire was allowed to continue the stack would break up, burning logs would fall away, roll well down the slope and start a fire there which would roar back uphill and threaten the surrounding houses. Wil Buch came to investigate permit status but the owner was overseas.
The Auxiliaries had spread foam copiously on the top surface but the heart of the fire was deep down in the stack. Led by Roger we set about reaching the internals of the stack and hosing the hot stuff into submission. Turf had been bulldozed from the site and put on top of the timber, so getting to the heart of the fire had more in common with mining than with regular bush firefighting (the team is putting in for mining pay). Some big rocks which were in the mix had become very hot and it took a lot of water to cool them. After an hour or so the stack had stopped smoking and steaming and seemed to be at peace. Tony undertook to monitor so we left confidently for the Station, via yet another refill at Holt Road, arriving by 1300. Interesting times!
Posted in Incident Reports