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By: Leith Hillard

Category: Incidents - Bushfire

  2.12 PM 20 December, 2012

Location: District 22 News

Views: 3635

Three crews remained on scene about 24 hours after Wednesday's crop fire began at Wahring. An infrared camera is checking hot spots and fire investigators and the concerned farmer are sniffing around the header to locate the exact cause of the fire.

“He lost a fair bit of wheat,” says Operations Officer Peter Brereton, “but fortunately his machine wasn’t damaged.

District: 22

Date: 19 December 2012

Brigades: Avenel, Kialla and District, Longwood, Murchison, Rushworth, Tatura, Miepoll,  Nagambie, Locksley, Arcadia, Karramomus, Moorilim, Bailieston, Branjee, Molka, Rigg’s Creek, Wahring, Toolamba, Euroa, Shepparton, Mooroopna, Sherbourne Group, Picola, Katunga, Waaia, Nathalia

“We’re seeing fires take off and do some bad things on days when the Fire Danger Index is low," continues Peter. "Yesterday it was only in the teens but we haven’t had decent rain for about two months.

“The usual response is five trucks but the incident controller went to 20 trucks pretty quickly because this one had the potential to run all the way to the Goulburn Valley Highway.

“The aircraft were called in within five minutes and we had four aircraft over the fire within about 25 minutes. One Helitak was from Shepp and the other was already flying near Heathcote and diverted.”

The main threat was the fire heading towards a cluster of houses but a gutsy initial effort from 20 tankers secured that area.

A Level 2 Incident Control Centre was set up at the Murchison Fire Station with Group Officer Robert Brown as incident controller and David Weidenbach from Murchison brigade as his deputy. David was proud to have his daughter Ashlee alongside him as penciller although that doesn’t seem an accurate term for someone so tech savvy who was sending video footage of the fire back to the ICC.

“The wind was running at about 15/20 kilometres an hour,” says David, “which built up to 25/35 kilometres an hour and fanned it towards the south. We had three metre high flames at one point. The fire jumped Douglas Rd and developed two heads – one on each side of the road. One head ran directly into a canola stubble so crews could get on top of it and the other went into bushland.

“We had four sectors set up with one looking after machinery and one looking after aircraft. A Shire grader made a mineral earth break and their excavator pushed over burning trees so crews could get in and mop up.

“We had some major things in our favour. The aircraft were a key linchpin and they were working with about 30 trucks.

“We had about eight FCVs there and I can’t stress enough the importance of getting them on the ground as soon as possible. Getting management in place early saves the day. You have sector command and the trucks work under their guidance.

“Another highlight was seeing the skill of the crew on the Moorilim tanker. They’re predominantly wheat farmers so they’re very skilled at handling stubble fires. They know how it behaves. I can’t praise them enough.”

The Murchison pumper/tanker set up as a quickfill and could accommodated two or three trucks at a time. Altogether, a smooth operation.

A strike team from Moira catchment relieved crews after the wind change came through at about 7pm. They stayed until about 3am when a light rain fell.

“A brilliant piece of work altogether,” says Peter.

Photos from Wayne Rigg

Last Updated: 21 December 2012