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Fire and the works at Bonnie Doon
It was New Year’s Eve 2005 and it was a stinking hot day, about 40 degrees. South Wangaratta first lieutenant Mick Daws remembers the day well.
***Mick Daws is a CFA volunteer who is being profiled as part of a special series celebrating National Volunteer Week from 11-17 May***
“I was planning on how we might see the New Year in when the pager went off at about 5pm. A fire had started in grassland near Bonnie Doon and was spreading rapidly. A request had gone out for people to man a strike team and I had no hesitation in putting my hand up,” Mick said.
Mick’s strike team was thrust into action soon upon arrival that evening. The fire was travelling through steep hilly terrain towards residents and campers at Geelong Hill, Neely Point and Bonnie Doon, threatening the Bonnie Doon pub and a local caravan park.
“It was pretty hard going as it was open, hilly country with quite steep sections so manoeuvrability was difficult. We were focused on protecting the pub and had trucks line up at a nearby ridge to prevent the fire from running across the hill, upon arriving we were directed to follow a farm trail up to a power-line maintenance road (it looked like a straight up hill climb for 600m), so steep that at one point the hose locker door sprang open and we thought we may lose all of our hoses to the bottom. At the top of the hill it was a three point turn to get onto the road.
The fire was fought by 120 firefighters with support provided by two helicopters and a dozer.
“We were busy all evening and into the early morning. I only got some rest at about two in the morning and I well remember the howling wind, the rocking truck and the company of several kangaroos that were interspersed between the crew members who were resting on the ground later toward daybreak. had invaded our space. It was quite funny, really,” Mick said.
The 26-year CFA veteran made it back home to Wangaratta later that morning and celebrated with a belated New Year’s Day dinner with family. Later that afternoon the brigade would be out again for a fire impacting the Wangaratta township.
Mick said missing out on special occasions was to be expected as a CFA volunteer.
“We turn out to incidents year round and sometimes they clash with events, birthdays and other celebrations (sometimes it can put a strain on relationships, but it helps to have a supportive family) but that’s fine, we understand that can happen. What’s most important is being there to help people when they need you most.”
Mick’s sense of community is one of several traits that mark volunteerism and which is being celebrated during National Volunteer Week from 11–17 May.
For more information, visit www.volunteeringaustralia.org