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Ammo adds bang to house fire
The town of Barnawartha (near Wodonga) experienced some unexpected fourth of July ‘fireworks’ when 5,000 rounds of ammunition exploded in a burning house on Bill Tanners Road.
First at the scene, at 5.45pm, were Barnawartha Captain Howard Smith and his wife Tammy, Deputy Communications Officer for Rutherglen Group, who were greeted by what Tammy describes as a 'mighty glow'.
The pair called for more trucks and set up incident control and immediately established that no people were trapped inside the property. But the feeling of relief soon turned to alarm when they started hearing a series of loud bangs, almost like gunshots.
“We quickly established from the resident that there were around 5,000 rounds of ammunition stored in the house,” said Tammy.
Under challenging circumstances and windy conditions, brigades did extremely well to bring the fire under control within three hours. It was declared safe at 9am the next morning.
Thirteen vehicles, including 11 appliances, from Barnawartha, Wodonga, Indigo Valley, Chiltern, Browns Plains, Cornishtown and Rutherglen attended.
“This incident had it all,” said Tammy. “We had members from Rutherglen, Barnie and Chiltern all donning breathing apparatus, with the number of cylinder refills taking up an entire A4 page in the records.
“But the biggest learning curve for us came out of the relay pumping. We set up two or three different hydrants around town, but kept losing water pressure. The mains in the town are a bit old and too much water was being pumped – we kept hearing ‘pressure down’. It was very logistical.
“The loss of the property was a tragedy for the resident, a member of the fire brigade, who has lived there his whole life.
“I cannot praise highly enough the efforts of the brigades, especially the guys who worked through the clean-up that morning which was a huge effort.
“We had 20 members from Barnie on the ground – plus any number of residents offering to help – that’s an incredible effort for a small town," said Tammy.