For over two weeks now Halfway Creek RFS crews and other RFS brigades have been attempting to control a fire that started or was started in inaccessible bush west of Rediger Close. This fire threatened properties in Rediger Close, Dunmar Lane and all the way up to the ridge almost to the phone towers and over to Clearwater Creek and Gilmore’s Lane. Several times it was thought to be contained only to have it break out yet again beyond the containment lines. Finally it was decided to extend the burn along the Highway from Rediger Close to Kungala Road and down Gilmore’s Lane to link up with the previous burns near Skelly’s Plantation and surround the fire completely.
On Saturday 7th September a large strike team of 14 RFS tankers and a couple of group leaders from the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour areas, as well as lots of RMS personnel to control the Highway traffic, assembled at the Halfway Creek RFS station. They were divided into three teams to complete a back burn line of about 10 kilometres around over 1000 plus acres of bush, including asset protection of several homes and the Halfway Creek Hall. The burn was successfully completed and blacked out by about 8 pm with a tanker from Halfway Creek patrolling well into the night and yet another Halfway Creek crew continuing this with assistance from Grafton RFS on Sunday. Sunday night following calls to "000" a further inspection by a brigade officer confirmed the fire to be safe but would be checked again on Monday morning and patrolled if it required any further work.
Almost every active member of Halfway Creek RFS participated in controlling this fire at some stage, congratulation team especially the new ones - well done.
Here is a link to a facebook video filmed by a Bruce Thomas a well known local photographer who was passing by a the height of the Highway burn from Kungala Road https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151871262402904
A section of the fire we attended last week at Stoney Ridge Road had spread up and over the ridge towards Blackbutt Rd and was threatening a couple of homes. We were called out to assist Lanitza, Grafton and Braunstone 7’s with this. Lanitza and Grafton had the situation in hand so we were tasked with watching a couple of properties up hill from the fire. By late evening the fire was deemed in control and we returned to the station
Halfway Creek brigade conducted a hazard reduction burn on the Pacific Highway just north of our station. We used both units the Cat 1 & the Cat 7 and our crew consisted Captain Tony, Matt, Ken, Clare, Greg, Kevin & Laura. Our trucks were assisted by Iluka 7. It was a small burn but was made difficult by lots of tall whiskey grass and occasional wind gusts causing flare ups and the odd spot over. Towards the end our Cat 7 got bogged in an invisible soft spot and had to be towed out when the first burn was successfully completed and blacked out. We then burnt a further small area near the house and blacked it out. It was good training for all especially the new comers who still have little or no fire experience. We were back in the station by 5:00 pm refilled the trucks and signed off.
Halfway Creek assisted Lanitza/Kungala 1 & 7 with a hazard reduction burn in Parker Rd. Our crew consisted of Kevin, Laura and Ken (driver). The burn involved two areas amounting to about 7 ha. The landowner had slashed adequate fire breaks around the areas so we lit up at about 11am and were finished around 2pm. We then headed down Orara Way to the second HR burn in Stoney Ridge Road; before we got there Steve, Lanitza Captain, received a call to a bush fire in Stoney Ridge Rd near where we were supposed to do the HR burn. As it was a long rough drive in to reach the fire, it was impossible for the Cat 1 so it waited as a water tanker on the road. The fire was burning under the power lines and up the hill north east towards Blackbutt Road. We extinguished the fires around and near the powerlines but were unable to get access to the fire burning slowly up the hill. We returned to the station around 5pm.
Halfway Creek Cat 1 attended yet another horrific head on accident just south of Kungala Road on a straight section of the Pacific Highway. This time unfortunately it involved a fatality and an older couple, transferred one by ambulance to Coffs Harbour and the other by the Westpac chopper. Tony had a difficult time getting our truck through the traffic to the accident site. Laura and Kevin had joined Blair (our Group Captain) there, coming directly from home and walking the last bit. We assisted the Glenugie crew and NSW Fire and Rescue from Woolgoolga. After the vehicles had been removed we cleared and washed down the roadway. Thanks to Ken and Robyn who supplied the RFS crews with a much appreciated meal at the accident.
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.