View Full Version : Sydney's Burning........

12-05-2002, 03:54 AM

It ain't nice here at present. Fire is about 4 km up the road and if two fronts join up, we've got a 10 mile by 25 mile fire front with 35+ knot winds.

I've got a bit over an hour to get out to my cousin's place to give him a hand, before the wind changes to the South.


Ah well, time to pack another stubby, put on the overalls, take a shower and get stuck in.

Anyone know how to do a rain dance?


12-05-2002, 04:20 AM
Ten fire trucks and 130 firefighters on the way from Victoria tonight. Makes me feel I should be able to do more. Seems only the other day we were commiserating with friends in the US with their fires. Were having gales and storms from the other end of the same weather system.
Went to a meeting with state and local govt. and the fire people today, never seen such co-operation, they must be really worried. You are in our thoughts,

For our OS friends try http://ninemsn.com.au/ and look for the news links

[ 12-05-2002, 08:51 PM: Message edited by: skuthorp ]

Wild Dingo
12-05-2002, 05:56 AM
Ian thoughts are with yous fellas... like Jeff wouldnt mind bein able to do more but well hang in there and be safe mate

We had the weirdest day... truely weird... cool this am till about 10am 11... then turned real scorchin hot like a peircing heat for about half an hour or so... then heavy thunderheads rolled in lighting and rain for half an hour or so with a weird look to the air really charged and like when your waitin on a cyclone to hit... then hot again for an hour or so then a tad more rain then cooled right down at around 2.30pm... been raining off and on since really steamy as hell... weird reminded me of Darwin during the wet.

Take a lot of care out there peoples... even you fellas with that cold snow and ice stuff still dangerous.

Take it easy

On Vacation
12-05-2002, 06:15 AM
Thoughts with you guys. We are really in great shape here. But up the road about two hours, ice and the mountains blanket of snow. It 45 degrees here and light drizzle and going up to around 50 degrees. It nice living in the Gulf Stream.

[ 12-05-2002, 07:16 AM: Message edited by: Oyster ]

12-05-2002, 06:50 AM
Be safe you fellows! I'll pray for rain.


[ 12-05-2002, 07:50 AM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

12-05-2002, 06:53 AM
Sorry to hear the news, it seems like just last week you all were going through this before. I wish I could send a bit of the snow we're going to get this afternoon down to you guys. Take care & be safe! :(

12-05-2002, 05:07 PM
Sixty fires still burning round Sydney, doubled in size since yesterday. 18 homes lost. No end in sight as weekend weather forecast is not good. Meanwhile 300k away in the mountains its 4 below and snowing!

Memphis Mike
12-05-2002, 05:32 PM
Good luck guys!

Wild Dingo
12-05-2002, 07:48 PM
Only bit of "good" news we heard over this side of the country was that only one person has died during all this... not good news for the old fella who dieds family but in the light of how many could have 1 is "good"... fair few hurt and burnt and a lot of property gone but from what we get mostly those hurt are the firefighters themselvs... but what the eck would I know bein way the buggary over ere?? Keep us tuned in fellas!!

Stay safe

Take it easy

ion barnes
12-05-2002, 08:42 PM
That's a hard nut guys, I was in Sydney 12yrs ago and loved it. Can you give me some idea of where or which areas are affected? Wish we could send you some of our big water bombers, they are sitting idle right now. So needed and yet so far away. Take care

12-05-2002, 11:22 PM
Iv'e been listening this arvo, fires at Canoelands, Berowra, up along the Hawksbury. West near the Blue Mountains, during the day all the main roads north and were were closed and even the ferry services up river were curtailed. I write this from Melbourne, 600 miles away and my knowledge of that part of sydney is incomplete so I may have made some mistakes. I hope we hear from Igatenby tonight, I'll be gone till Monday, find a link to a news station above, Good fortune Sydney.\, Jeff

[ 12-06-2002, 12:32 AM: Message edited by: skuthorp ]

Mike Field
12-05-2002, 11:32 PM
And in Melbourne, silly as it sounds, we've had gale-force winds and rain-storms solidly for three days.

Ed Harrow
12-06-2002, 11:24 AM
Any news re Castle Hill? Tony, any chance you could make another phone call for me? Ed

12-06-2002, 09:45 PM
Good news - Bad news

Two very stuffed but safe guys, blisters, smoke damaged, cuts, etc.

One two storey house (and contents) reduced to a smoking pile about 3' high.

We worked to 2am Friday and up again at dawn until the fire hit us at 3pm. My cousin's property is 25 acres on top of a heavily-wooded ridge. He had done heaps of hazard reduction (burning out the leaf litter during spring, raking the leaves away, etc) We raked and blew the leaves Thursday night and ran the fire pump out of the dam all day - flooding as much of the site as we could.

Our fall-back position was a 40' shipping container with 600 litres of water and a misting spray to cover us during the passing of the fire front. We also had over 4" of water under and around the container.

We watched the fire advancing and kept checking on its rate of progress - about 100 metres per hour, because we were to the side of the main fire, which was to our East and the wind was gusting to over 25 knots from the South. We had plenty to do, including putting out the fire on Scott's old truck/crane which was further down his block - we lost the four back tyres.

The fire eventually came over the last ridge on our Eastern side and we knew for sure that we would get hit. Last minute rush to get photos and precious items into the container.

During all this, Scott's wife, who has acute leukemia had been admitted to hospital and we were on the phone (mobile / cell phone - as the landline and electricity had gone down on Thursday) getting a report on her condition. We saw this massive wall of smoke come up the ridge from the South East and we had to cut her off and run....

We were hit from a totally unsuspected direction, but that didn't matter because we had water barrels, buckets, backpack sprays, etc everywhere. We had moved all the vehicles - caravan, tractors, truck, my gokarts, etc into open areas.

I've never seen anything like it. The noise was like a freight train - the fire front just rolled over us - we had flames about 35' high everywhere. Our first loss was an old van that Scott had a whole heap of Dexion shelving, plywood, etc - including my water heater from the boat - stored inside. Whoof - gone - acrid, black smoke everywhere. Too fast to do anything about.

We had the trees near the house go up, including a "willy willy" - a spiralling eddy of flame about 30' high right next to the house. The next front hit us from the South West and the garden beds lit up right next to us and then the corner of the house just burst into flame. I put it our twice with buckets of water.

The heat, flames and, worse - smoke was just incredible. We were in the right gear - heavy cotton overalls, boots, helmets, wet cloth nappies over our mouths to try to keep some smoke out - not too successful, I might add - and I ended up wearing just glasses (found my goggles in the car today, damn it). The nappies dried out every five minutes and had to be dunked again.

We thought we had the house under control and went in different directions to check vehicles, sheds, timber stacks, etc. We both put out spot fires and met back at the safety zone because we were getting hammered by the radiant heat and smoke.

We looked up to the house just as it got hit by a flame front that came up the ridge from the North East. That corner of the house just burst into flames all the way to roof height - absolutely unbelievable and impossible to fight. We retreated to an open rock area upwind of the house - which the original idiot/builder had clad in treated pine - which produces highly toxic smoke.

It didn't take long for 11 years of memories to be reduced to a 3' high pile of crap, maybe 30 minutes. When the propane cylinders vented it was wild - a 3' high flame shooting out horizontally for 15' and sounding like a jet taking off.

We were dumbfounded, but had to keep fighting the spot fires that were breaking out among the vehicles, sheds, etc. I got caught in smoke so thick you couldn't see more than a few feet, which was a rather too close call.

We were both back at the caravan when we got hit by another front - an 80' high wall of flame that was way above the tree tops that came from the West. Luckily we were where the South West front had burnt up the ridge, so we knew (or hoped) it wouldn't come back at us. It came up to about 50 metres away then turned away.

Our generator melted - it was 20 metres away from the house - as did our drink bottles. I dropped a plastic bucket which ended up bursting into flames even though there were no fires closer than 10 metres to it. Solitary pieces of timber, eg on the kid's playground equipment burst into flames - the plastic seats on the swings melted. etc, etc.

We ran ourselves to a halt about 8.30pm. About five and a half hours putting out fires, moving gear, going down the road putting out fires in the power poles, etc. We lost five power poles. We went to bed in the caravan with the garden mulch burning 3' away and with about 15 small fires in trees and logs still burning within 50 metres of us.

I'm stuffed. We're alive. Life moves on.

Thanks to the well-wishers, but all you rain dancers better hang on to your day jobs.


Ed Harrow
12-06-2002, 11:18 PM
Egods.... There isn't much to say, or at least I can't find the words. Glad to know, at least, that you're all OK... :(

12-07-2002, 03:17 AM
Thank God you made it!!!!!houses can be rebuilt but god forbid getting caught in a fire! I live on a ridge 27 k from town and the images on the nightly news has been making my flesh crawl......had a fire to the back door 15 years ago....but nothing like that .Congratulations on being alive !

Wild Dingo
12-07-2002, 03:39 AM
Geeeeezus mate... thank god you all came through!
aint nothing more to be said from here.

Take it easy
Shane Jo and Hoons

Mike Field
12-07-2002, 05:00 AM
What's there to say? Nice to have you still with us, old son.

Wild Wassa
12-08-2002, 02:10 AM
IG have you been along to your local Brigade, and done the Basic FF, or more? If you live in a bushland setting, you must take responsibility (as I have just read).


ps, Don't join-up unless you have the time. She is a 7 day per week, 24 hours (between burns), full time job, even for the Volunteers (if you're in the first team), during the fire season.

pps, In Australia we do not say fire trucks (that's US terminology), we call them, fire appliances. I use to be a driver. I always called the vehicle a 'truck', just to stir my colleagues.
One draughts from a dam. A misting spray is called a fog. To attack a propane cylinder, is a gas attack. One does not count the flame height in feet, the flame height, it's in metres. IG your terminology is close.

ppss, IG, I hope you drank a minimum of a litre per hour when you where on the fire line. Today isn't over, nor will it ever be.

[ 12-08-2002, 04:52 AM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

12-08-2002, 03:18 AM
Whew, quite the story Ian. Glad you and yours are safe.


12-08-2002, 05:01 AM
Originally posted by Wild Wassa:
"IG, I hope you drank a minimum of a litre per hour when you where on the fire line"I wish. Good in theory - planned for, with water bottles out and ready - but they got melted by the fire! We were definitely dehydrated - face and lips totally dried out and now peeling - despite being covered for most of the time.

I went back out to the property on Saturday aternoon and a tree had fallen next to one of Scott's trucks and was burning, but we got to it in time. More power poles were down and we had to scape under the cables to get in - absolutely zero chance of any electrons in the cables.

I also went down to Berowra Waters to check Grantala on its mooring. Would you believe, as I came around the point in speedboat, there were flames within 150' of the boat, ie directly behind it, on the shoreline. I didn't have any emotional energy left to be more than slightly concerned - and the flames were only about 6'high and burning down the slope in the undergrowth.

Plenty of fine ash in the boat through open portholes!

Mates - I need a holiday!

Many thanks for your good wishes - much appreciated. It's my cousin that's coppin' it though.


12-08-2002, 12:26 PM
Ian, you have my permission to take a holiday. Enough is enough. Fingers stay crossed.

Fire truck in the US is for civilians. We ex volunteers call 'em properly fire apparatus.


12-08-2002, 02:59 PM
"Our VFD calls the trucks by what they do (pumper, ladder etc.)"

Yes that would be a satisfactory way to designate a specific piece of fire apparatus.


John B
12-08-2002, 06:23 PM
It's a terrible situation you've been in Ian . what can anyone say about it except thank goodness you are all Ok. You must be pleased with the way that you and your friends have dealt with such difficult events. All the best to you.

Wild Wassa
12-08-2002, 08:24 PM
Ian great effort Mate. The area that you are talking about is prety tricky country, a nice area.

If you can keep the drinking water going that's half the battle won. Also don't drink sweet fizzy drinks or eat too many sweet things if you are fighting fires. Water is the best.

The radiation is about 800 degrees (min) at a metre, that's why you are scorched. No wonder you are dry today.

You can buy the fire gear, I remember the yellows at about $160, they are treated with a fire retardent. The jacket will cover your nose, over the smoke mask. A triangular bandage is a good face mask, under the yellows. Not wishing you more hot times, though. You can take the fight to the fire, in the yellows. Normal turnout gear for the town fire fighters is too hot, fighting a bush fire in thongs and shorts I've seen, a few times. 'Hotas', I think the term is.


ps, Burn the end of your nose ? ...how many times?

[ 12-08-2002, 09:45 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

12-08-2002, 10:41 PM
Great effort, sounds like you did well to survive. Considering what youre cousin had done, how much preparation is 'enough'?

12-09-2002, 06:06 PM
Rain! Glorious rain!

Rain dancers - wait - you're not fired - come back - don't stop. Next time, start dancing a week earlier though please.


Roger Stouff
12-09-2002, 06:44 PM
Keep fighting the good fight! Best wishes from the Rez, that you and yours will be okay.