Fire among worst firefighter has seen in 38 years
SURROUNDED by intense flames with embers raining down on their tankers, firefighters had to withdraw their protection of homes at Ashby Heights as the Myall Creek Road Fire roared down upon them on Tuesday afternoon.
Fire & Rescue NSW Station 472 Turvey Park, deputy captain, David Gill, said the team comprising three fire tankers and 13 firefighters from southern New South Wales, were forced to evacuate from Ashby Heights and move south to protect Ashby village.
Normally based at Wagga Wagga, Mr Gill has 38 years firefighting experience including the prestigious Australian Fire Services Medal, said the team were positioned at Ashby to protect lives and property.
"We were there from about Tuesday lunchtime and indications such as smoke, ash and embers showed the fire-front was approaching," he said.
"We set up protection areas in two streets and around 4pm Tuesday realised the area we were defending would be fully impacted; within a quarter of an hour it was on top of us, I've never seen anything like it, we had to evacuate."
He said the severe conditions of the Myall Creek Fire (which has burned nearly 104,000ha) were some of the most extreme he has ever witnessed in nearly 40 years of firefighting.
"Driving down one street there were high flames burning on both sides, we could hear the noise, the flames, embers, and we could feel the flames.
Mr Gill said the massive walls of flames around the trucks meant that they made the sensible decision to leave, despite the F&R tankers which catty 3000lt and have full cabin protection, there was no sense in taking risks.
"We had to evacuate, life is more valuable than property," he said
"A vehicle went back a couple of hours later to check on equipment as we had to abandon the hoses and saw the fire had burned down the valley to the village, but fortunately there was a wind change which prevented this."
Mr Gill said he has not heard of the full extent of the damage in that area yet.
"As much as know only two houses were impacted in the area, but I cannot confirm this," he said.