The story behind the ‘we owe you some milk’ note

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Photos doing the rounds on social media have recently depicted the desperate scenes of firefighters attacking the worst fires that NSW and QLD have seen in recent memory, but every now and then you see a photo that makes you smile.

This is an amazing tale that just needs to be told.

“It was out pleasure to save your house. Sorry that we could not save your sheds. Urunga RFS. P.S – We owe you some milk”.

This is the note the homeowner returned to find on his kitchen bench.

To set the scene, the owner of the house, Paul, was out in town at the time and his wife was home alone in their little wooden cabin on top of a hill. When the fires were visible on the horizon backed by strong erratic winds, Paul’s wife quickly grabbed what she could and left.

When Urunga 1 was tasked for property protection at that location, they arrived to find a small wooden cabin with the door and windows open, with no power, totally smoke logged and surrounded by spot fires. The power had been out for some time, so they secured the house as best they could and prepared it for impact.

“We arrived on scene and the house was open – doors and windows, the owners just left in a hurry. We prepared the dwelling for impact as best we could.

Essentially our crew of 4 saved the house in absolute trying conditions – but we had to leave as we were out of water. I didn’t have much hope for the house once we left but I thought I’ll leave a note on the kitchen bench.

We had taken refuge from the conditions inside for a moment and if the house survived, then hopefully the owner would contact us. I didn’t think it would gather so much attention”.

Firefighter Kale Hardie-Porter

If you were wondering what exactly the crew was up against that night? See for yourself in the footage below taken from the pump operators perspective. You can see the fire approaching, then – there’s just fire everywhere.

What made conditions more challenging was the driveway to this property was long and difficult to access, so when the fire passed by the house, it then moved up and hampered their escape. So the crew rotated from inside the house to out on property protection as the fire continued to roar past.

Low on water and with more houses to defend, Kale quickly wrote the note and left it on the kitchen bench, hoping that if the house survived – the owner would get in touch.

Well, the house did survive thanks to their efforts and the owner indeed got in touch with the brigade to let them know. When the station was asked how they felt that the quickly scribbled page has been shared a gazillion times and picked up by news outlets internationally, Kale was modest and said: “My handwriting is woeful and a little embarrassing but I was in a rush, would have given it a bit of love if I knew it would end up like this!”

The crew had serious doubts that this little cabin was going to make it through the night, but they showed up, put themselves in harm’s way and did what they could.

I say a bit of milk for a well-earned cuppa is a fair trade for a house still standing.

Without these guys, things would have been a lot worse.

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I founded Flashover to promote Australian Firefighting. I've been a volunteer and a paid firefighter but now I spend my time chasing up leads, promoting good mental health and making the occasional Grumpy Firecom comic!

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