Early Sunday morning on 19 August TM1 received a call to Wongawollan Road from a resident concerned about an approaching bushfire. There was serious confusion and some delay with the Firecom system showing only Wongawollan Drive, about 20 minutes distant, but the local Auxiliaries and our TM52 team contained the immediate fire on arrival. Meanwhile, the TM51 team and a Coomera Valley 51 unit conducted a large backburn around the ridge behind the house to stop a flaring front coming up from the valley. TM units were subsequently left monitoring the fire and attempted to contain the flank which erupted out of the valley. Despite our scrambling down almost vertical cliff fronts, we were outflanked by the fire and had to retreat to the roadway, where we recalled the Auxiliaries and Coomera Valley.
The fire was expected to continue up to the road to threaten properties and heavy bush so we commenced a 700 metre burn off the road, into the oncoming front, and also a limited burn off a steep northward track on the western front.
This strategy appeared successful, but was overcome again during the night by a rapid westward advance of the fire deep in the valley, out of our sight. We scrambled down this steep track to slow the advance, but ultimately had to concede that we could not extend effective firefighting down to the seat of the fire. About 360 meters of hose had to be recovered with a very small team.
So, after calling in further teams from Tamborine, and with the Auxiliaries guarding houses, we continued the backburn along Wongawollan Road on Monday, around a large corner property and off a hastily constructed track parallel to Kinabalu Drive, heading for a junction with Tamborine Creek. The vegetation changed at this point to more moist ferny undergrowth, and, with cooling temperatures, increasing humidity and light winds, the fire eventually self extinguished during Monday night.
Both Tuesday and Wednesday required our turnout to burning logs and a dangerous “candlestick” tree throwing embers downwind until it dropped upper branches and permitted a good dowsing of water and foam.
All in all, a pretty thorough introduction to local bush fire fighting for some of our team, a successful outcome, with only one minor injury, no homes seriously threatened and a number of lessons for all of us.
•Communication was, as usual, a problem, with time wasted over early position confusion. The Incident Command Centre later set up effective comms to the “Rural Operations” and “Urban Operations” controllers.
•We could not follow the seat of the fire deep in the valley and possible aerial assistance was not available while structures were not under any immediate threat. An “eye in the sky” would have been invaluable at this incident.
•The worst possible outcome would have been fighting the fire from the rear of numerous properties along Kinabalu Drive, so the effort to contain the fire well clear of this area was considered worthwhile, but it certainly stretched the brigade’s abilities.
Many thanks for the superb efforts expended by Donna, John H, Paul, Chris, Jaap, Don, Maria, Jenny, Greg, Ron, Paris, Nathan, Cameron, Kent, and Robbo.