Local firefighters help out

WHILE the Naracoorte area was reasonably safe from fire over the past couple of weeks, the rest of the State was not so lucky.

That was particularly the case around the southern Flinders Ranges where a huge bushfire is still causing problems for local firefighters.

On the evening of January 18 a group of 23 CFS firefighters from CFS region five - which covers the SE - was sent as a strike team on the long drive up north to help, joining crews from around the State.

Among these 23 were two firefighters from Lucindale, Ashley Wilkin and Suzette Thornhill, two from Naracoorte, Allan Marshall and David Ludwig, and three from Hynam, John Pallant, Steve Bounds and Frank Watson.

They saddled up with crews from other CFS groups from the region, taking six appliances with them.

They arrived early Sunday morning, January 19, and were housed in Port Pirie - the nearest major centre to the blaze.

On their first night - the region five team was on night shift - they were stationed on the eastern side of the fire, patrolling the east and Roslyn (north-east) sectors.

David was the officer in charge of Hynam 34 and Allan was in charge of Argyle 34.
They were "blacking out" the ground, making sure the fire couldn't spread past them, and mopping up.

"That was tiring sort of work," Allan said. "Dragging hoses around all night - by 4am you were pretty tired."

The team was basically spending 12 hours from 8pm to 8am on the fireground, getting a briefing and tea before heading out and then breakfast on the way back.
David commented on the dedication of the Salvation Army who were feeding the firefighters.

"It was the same people each time," he said. "They weren't getting a break either."
The strike team was being led by Daryl Napper - a long-time CFS member with a wealth of local knowledge - which was very useful given the SE crews had little knowledge of the area.

"It was handy having him," David said. "He knew every single road."

On the second night the crews were patrolling the Bridle Track - a 4WD track 450m above sea level in very difficult terrain.

"We were nearly abseiling down on the hose...a goat wouldn't get through there," David said.

Allan added: "It certainly wasn't a road made for trucks...it was a good test for the drivers."

On the third night, their last night at the fire, the crew didn't see much action - they were patrolling the water pipeline to the west of the fire and doing asset protection for the four properties in that area.

"We were looking after four farm properties, just monitoring them," David said.
"The New South Wales relief crew came up (for the changeover in the morning) just as it was about to go to s..t."

Both Naracoorte firefighters praised the community support from the local area - with the people of Port Pirie donating bags of food for the firefighters one example of the generosity on show.

They, along with their Hynam counterparts, also spoke highly of the employers of volunteers who let them have days off to go to fires.

"It's a big commitment," said David, who co-owns and runs a mechanic business in Naracoorte (which he left in the hands of his business partner for the three days).
"It's incredibly hard for them."

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