After a quiet summer, with no significant turnouts and a distinct lack of smoke, residents in the Ovens valley have mostly welcomed the sight of the DSE helicopter, and smoke rising from the ridges as it drops incendiary bombs to initiate fuel reduction burns. But on the afternoon of April 11, smoke rising from a property near Boynton winery became unwelcome, as a bonfire spread out of control.
Porepunkah and Bright CFA crews were called to a property just west of Porepunkah, to find a fire spreading across and up a scrub-covered hill above a house. Burning off piles of wood at this time of year might seem like a good idea, but when they are embedded in blackberries and on a steep slope, things get messy very quickly.
Although slow moving, we were reminded why agility and fitness are a benefit fighting fires in alpine areas. Scrambling through half burnt blackberry bushes, hauling hoses up steep terrain is hot, tiring work, even on a cool day. We were also reminded of the extra demand on the pumps, which worked hard to push water uphill, as the only access to the fire was from below.
With the fire contained, the largest job was blacking out, as stumps smouldered, and grass tussocks held their heat just below the soil surface.
With no property damaged, this would have been a perfect training exercise for our new recruits. For us it was a chance to fire up the pumps, deal with an incident and catch up with fellow firefighters.
Photos by Sarah Black