Our brigade was called out at Sunday evening, to inspect/safe guard a bridge collapse on Parker road. Our Captain Tony Wade attended this callout by himself using the Cat7. Lanitza 7 was also at the scene, be it on the other side of the bridge. Both brigades stayed on the scene until the council arrived to put in proper warning signs and fencing, to avoid people running into this obstacle.
About 8pm on Saturday night Halfway brigade was asked to attend on a “000” report of camp fires at Station Creek camping area during a total fire ban. Tony, Greg and Bernie responded in our Cat 7. On the way to Tony received another call asking for another truck to attend a bush fire at Franklins Road. As Bernie is our second driver and Ton is currently unavailable due to an injury Tony had to request that Lanitza respond to this one. The campers put out their small camp fires on request, a bit of a waste of time especially as this is a NPWS campsite.
However when Lanitza 7 arrived at Franklins Road it was felt that a second crew was needed, by then our crew was returning so they went directly to Franklins Road and assisted the Lanitza crew to extinguish the fire and black out. It was only a small area but difficult to really put out as it had been recently logged and there were many tree heads left making it hard to move around and difficult to extinguish. The crews stood down and returned to station at around midnight. Tony and Bernie returned at 8 am the following morning to check for any problems, fortunately there weren't any and the fire was out.
Halfway Creek 7 with Bernie driving, Jason our deputy captain and Kevin responded to a "smoke seen" call out. We got to the fire near the causeway in Parker Rd just before 3 pm and together with Lanitza 7 commenced a burn back to prevent any further spread. Braunstone 1 arrived soon after and assisted controlling the fire where access was possible. Braunstone acted as our tanker as both 7's used lots of water to make certain the fire was well and truly out as bad fire weather was forecast and we didn't want any replay. We were back at the station after filling our fuel and water tanks around 6pm.
The pager went off just after 11pm on Sunday night but as Tony, our considerate captain, was checking this out (after a recent false alarm at 2:30am earlier in the week) before calling us, Laura & I didn’t actually respond till after 11:30. We joined Tony in the Cat 1 and proceeded to the accident on the highway a couple of hundred metres south of Parker Road.
There were at least 4 police cars, Grafton SES Cat 1 and 2 SES four wheel drives (the big SES truck only carries a crew of three), two ambulances and an Ambulance Paramedic four wheel drive and later the Rescue helicopter and an RMS traffic control truck and crew as well as two tow trucks.
It was a single vehicle accident - a Mazda 626 had left the road colliding with a solid tree. One passenger walked away, a second had minor injuries but the driver was pretty bad and it took the SES crew a while to cut him out. The highway was closed for over three hours. We stayed, providing fire protection for the SES/Ambulance crews, leaving after the wreck was recovered and trucked away, returning to the station around 2:30am after a long night.
Halfway Creek 7 with our captain Tony and Kevin and Matt as crew left the station 8:30am to the fire at Mt Picaboota off Deep Creek Rd just north of Baryulgil in the north west Clarence. We joined Minnie Water 9, Fine Flower 7, Mt Ramornie 9 and Woombah 7 with Group leader 5 (Ian Steele). It was steep & hilly country and the track was extremely dusty. The biggest problem was tree heads left from recent logging which burst into flames almost instantly coupled with strengthening winds causing several spot overs which needed quick action to control. Lack of water was also a problem but the arrival of a State Forest’s Cat 1 tanker helped for a while. By 5 pm we had extended the control line practically down to the creek and open country.
Tuesday 6th November Halfway Creek 7 was again called to assist in containment of this fire. Tony, Peter and Matt left at around 7:30am for the two hour trip out past Baryugil. Containment lines were extended but in the windy conditions spot-overs were a problem, including a major one when crews were preparing to stand down. After this was extinguished the crews were stood down returning to the station after 8pm
Saturday the 3rd of November, Halfway Creek assembled a crew of 3 (including our newest member, Matt Wholston) to take out the 7 to a few fires near Mt Belmore state forest. As mentioned before the Halfway Creek 7 has been used by fire crews from Sydney, who unfortunately forgot to switch off the foam unit. This meant that after topping up the water tank, a lot of foam was formed inside the water tank, which is not a desired situation. Anyway back to the 3 fires which were burning out of control, and supposingly were lit on purpose. A helicopter surveying the area, spotted the probable perpetrator, and followed for half an hour until it was lost in the dense bush vegetation. Its very unfortunate these things are still happening. The strike team assembled at the bus station in South Grafton, where Grafton 9, Minnie Water 9 and Coutts Crossing 7 joined to make the trip to Mt Pickabooba. After about a 1.5 hour drive we arrived at staging area where a second bulldozer (D6) arrived to be deployed. Fine Flower 7 & 9, Baryulgil 7 and Trenayr 7 were already on the scene they were relieved later on in the day. Several back burns were started in an attempt to get control over the fires. It was a long and successful day but more work was needed so several other crews would to be deployed the next day.
At about 8 am Halfway Creek brigade’s Cat 1 attended a truck accident on the highway about 1 km south of Grays Road. The truck’s fuel tank had dislodged and about 100 litres of diesel had spilled on to the road side. NSW Fire & Rescue’s Hazmat trucks from Woolgoolga and Grafton were in attendance and we provided protection for their crews will the remaining diesel was pumped from the damaged tank. Lanitza 1 arrived shortly after us to assist. After cleaning up any residue we returned to the station around 10am.
As our Cat 7 was on loan to crews from out of area (Sydney) assisting with the current section 44, when we were called to assist with the large fire across the river from Nymboida we had to respond with our Cat 1. The Cat 1 is not the ideal unit for bushfires; it’s bigger, less manoeuvrable and considerably higher off the ground, so by the end of the day we were all buggered climbing in and out of it many times during the day. Fortunately the track we were burning back from was OK for the 1 it was just hard on the crew – Tony, Kevin, Laura and a new recruit Ken. Together with Nymboida 9, Lanitza 7 & Brooms Head 1 under the leadership of Group 5 (Neville Anderson), we burnt and blacked out about 5 kms of firebreak to enclose the north eastern and eastern edge of the fire. A couple of times the fire jumped our break so we had a fair bit of mopping up to do and falling trees including one that closed the track for a bit were also a problem. We were stood down about 4pm as the next section was unsuitable for the bigger trucks and a strike team from Richmond Valley were due next day to carry on.
Halfway Creek 7 with a crew of 3 was asked to assist with a big fire near Coaldale north of Grafton. We arrived at the meeting point with Brooms Head, Trenayr and Gulmarrad 7's. After a short while we drove in and were briefed by the Group Leader Robby Graham from Far North Coast RFS. There were at least five FNC brigades and four Clarence Valley brigades there together with a D7 bulldozer. We were given the job of blacking out the eastern edge of a prior burn for about 2.5kms. After this we had a quick cuppa and then we back-burnt and blacked out to the top of the rather steep mountain. This was accomplished by early evening but we continued to patrol and put out many stumps and trees, until a halt was called around 9:30pm when we were given a sandwich and sent home. One of the 7's was bogged for a short time on the way out but soon we were all away. Got back to station about 10:30pm. A long afternoon but a job well done.