“It was terrifying. Kilometres of fire coming towards you. How are we ever going to stop that?”
Cudgewa Fire Brigade volunteer Barry Byatt was with his fellow volunteers ready to defend his community from the coming fire front when it became clear his property in Colac Colac was under threat.
Cudgewa Fire Brigade volunteer Barry Byatt
With his wife and son at home and worried about his neighbours, Barry went back to defend his property.
“My goal was to put out spot fires. I made the call to defend along the Murray Valley Highway, going back and forth along a four-kilometre section in my truck, putting out embers as the fire came towards us,” Barry said.
With a well-irrigated paddock of corn next to his house, Barry knew he and his family had a safe place to shelter if they needed it.
However, when the fire started coming, jumping a nearby creek as it cut through the landscape towards Barry’s property, he was not prepared for the sound and intensity.
“It was terrifying,” Barry said. “You could hear it – just a roar. Kilometres of fire coming towards you and you’re thinking ‘how are we ever going to stop that?’
“There were a few times that I thought that we shouldn’t be there.
"I planned to fight the fire as long as I could and then leave. I knew that I could get through the fence into the maize paddock to safety if I needed to.”
Suddenly the wind changed, and the fire turned.
After the fire front passed, Barry’s house stood, miraculously untouched. Some of his neighbours and fellow CFA volunteers weren’t so lucky, losing homes and outbuildings.
“It was such a feeling of relief. The fire went around us on one side and around us on the other side and we were just sitting in the middle,’ Barry said.
“I just don’t believe what happened and I feel guilty about it. So many people have lost their houses and we sit here with our property untouched.”
Barry continues to assist around the region, responding to pager calls to address flare-ups and blacken out areas.
He knows the region will recover and will be encouraging visitors to return as soon as they can to support in the recovery of local businesses and organisations by contributing to the region’s economy.