Full on with fire

Full on with fire

Captain of the Buchan CFA, Peter White, hasn’t had a day off since January 16 when lightning started a fire in Timbarra.

“It’s been full on,” he says, not showing a hint of exhaustion.

The fire is burning in two sections and has twice threatened W-Tree.

On January 25, it resulted in the evacuation of 15 residents from the SIBA Buddhist Retreat Centre on Gelantipy Road.

Last Sunday, residents in Gelantipy Road were again under threat as the fire changed direction in the late afternoon and was headed straight for W-Tree’s close-knit community.

Miraculously, an 11th hour easterly wind change turned the fire back on itself and thankful residents were given a last-minute reprieve from being wiped out.

However, Cpt White says W-Tree isn’t out of the woods just yet.

He says the fire, not yet contained, is likely to continue burning for several more weeks.

While the rain and cooler temperatures over the past week has been welcomed by the more than 300 fire crews battling the East Gippsland blaze, Cpt White warns W-Tree residents shouldn’t be complacent.

“They’ve dodged a couple of bullets, but there could be a third,” he warned.

“The fire is still uncontained and there are no control lines in as yet,” Cpt White said.

“They’re going in as we speak (Tuesday afternoon) provided the weather remains benign.”

Cpt White says until that happens, there’s nothing to stop the fire from again threatening W-Tree and “potentially” heading towards Buchan.

Residents need to be prepared and think about their safety plan.

Cpt White relays stories of door knocking residents of W-Tree as the fire threatened their homes and witnessed people only beginning to pack their cars.

“It’s too late to pack the car when the fire is coming towards you,” Cpt White cautions.

“The time to leave is as soon as the watch and act is enacted, not once the emergency warning is issued.”

He says the car “should be packed well in advance”.

“There’s no point packing a car when the fire is on your doorstep,” he said.

People should also pay attention to the way they dress. Long sleeves, long pants and boots are recommended, not shorts and thongs. Placing water on yourself is not a good idea as it generates radiant heat.

Containment lines are already in place in one section of the fire but last week fire crews were working to install containment lines through private land for the Murrindal section.

Fire fighters hope that the extreme hot weather days are behind them as they race to bring the blaze under control.

While the cooler conditions and rainfall has made life a bit easier, it has also made back burning more difficult.

The fire has resulted in the road to Timbarra being closed and Buchan locals say tourism in the town has been affected by the ongoing fire.

Cpt White, who owns Buchan Accommodation, says he had cancellations back in mid January when the fire first started.

“On the Australia Day long weekend, every booking was cancelled,” he said.

As a volunteer CFA member, it’s worth noting that Cpt White’s endless days spent co-ordinating the Timbarra fire comes without remuneration.

PICTURED: Buchan CFA captain, Peter White, points to a map of the Timbarra fire last Tuesday. The yellow depicts where the fire has already burnt while the orange indicates where it’s still burning.