On the 05/01/2017 at 14:46hrs proceeding storm weather, 2 CFS brigades, Yacka CFS and Koolunga CFS, were responded to a Grass Fire on Broughton Hill Road, Yacka, South Australia. The fire was started by a lightning strike and upon arrival the brigades discovered the fire to be large and spreading at an alarming rate.
Within 33 minutes the alarm level was raised, a Bushfire Advice Message issued, 5 more appliances were responding supported by three aircraft. The appliances responded were Brinkworth 34, Jamestown 24P, Narridy 34, Redhill 44, and the Bundaleer Group Bulk Water 13. The Bundaleer Deputy Group Officer 1, Graham Sims, who responded on Jamestown 24P, said “Jamestown 24P was responded as part of the third alarm upgrade at 14:51 hrs. When we arrived the fire was about 200 ha,”
“We arrived on the North Eastern flank via a fire track, which required us to cross over the Broughton River. Upon arrival there were 10 farm fire units on the northern side, yet most of the firefighting activity was occurring on the Southern Western side. The fire was burning in a westerly direction, into a gully directly below us.” Sims then proceeded to say that due to the rough and inaccessible terrain where the fire was burning, it would be a case of waiting for the fire to burn into accessible land.
Sims said “We positioned ourselves on a fire track on top of the hill, along with Narridy 34, and 4 farm fire units, and awaited the fire.” The fire had separated into several fingers, covering over 500 hectares, and travelling in multiple directions due to sporadic winds and terrain influences. The fire was burning in tall grass and dense scrub, over rocky crests and through rough terrain, creating a challenge for ground crews to manage.
Due to the size and behaviour of the fire, fire crews and farmers with access to specialist equipment, like tractors and graters, worked from a safe distance to create a mineral earth break around the fires perimeter. Without the mineral break, the fire would progress into farmlands and put crops, homes, and lives at risk.
Ann Hammat, a local farmer who worked on a Farm Fire Unit during this fire with her son Dan said “My son was called at around 4PM and was
asked to drive the bull dozer to help create a Mineral Earth Break, he worked until 11:30PM and successfully helped contain the fire. I stayed in the Farm Fire Unit and moved up to the Southern Western front where I assisted the CFS in controlling, and mopping up the fire.”
Jamestown 24P were positioned at the top of a hill, awaiting the fire to burn up from the gully, Bundaleer Deputy Group 1 said “When the fire began to run up the hill, the flame height reached up
to 1.5 meters, but as the fire climbed further up the hill, the wind from the North East pushed the fire and slowed it, reducing the flame height to only 0.4 meters. As the fire burned up to the mineral earth break, our crews travelled along the break down to the Broughton River, ensuring the fires perimeter was all blacked out.”
To assist in suppressing the fire, 3 strike teams were called in from around the state, arriving at 19:00hrs that day, providing a further 13 more CFS appliances – making the total appliances on scene; 30 CFS Appliances, 5 Aircraft, several tractors and graders and over 15 Farm Fire Units manned by 30 farmers – who worked long into the night. To gain control of the fire as quickly and efficiently as possible, a back burn was put in place from the Broughton River, burning back up the other side of the hill to where the mineral earth break was.
Bundaleer Deputy Group Officer 1 said “Around 21:00hrs, a strike team arrived to relieve us. We stayed with the strike team for another hour until we were confident that the back burn wasn’t going to cause any issues.” By early morning on the second day of the fire, the fires spreading had been slowed, yet continued to burn dense pockets of grass and scrub within the fires perimeter. CFS resources had been reduced to just 3 ground units, and 1 aircraft, and at this point, the fires size was approximately 1100 hectares.
Alick Sharp, form Stirling North CFS, who worked as part of a strike team in Stirling North 24P on the second day, said “When we arrived, we were unsure of the size of the fire as it was dark, but we worked on mopping up hot spots, and to prevent the fire spreading up into the bigger trees. The hardest challenge that we faced was the rough terrain which was extremely hilly,” Sharp also said “On our appliance we had a crew of 4, and worked a 12-hour night shift, starting at 8pm, working till 8am the next day, our crews worked great as a team, and were top lads to be around!”
The fire was contained by crews just before 19:00hrs on the second day, with further more strike teams being deployed on the third day to relieve the CFS crews that had been working for a full day. A member from one of these Strike Teams arriving on the third day said, “We worked as part of the Para Group Strike Team on day 3, assisting with mopping up 30 meters deep into the fires perimeter. Our crews worked from 08:00hrs till 21:00hrs,” the Para Strike team consisted of One Tree Hill CFS, Salisbury CFS, Dalkeith CFS, and the Para Reserve CFS, from the Para CFS Group.