It’s been raining and cold. One twenty am the pager screeches on the bedside table. Dopily, I reach out for the pager and my glasses, wipe the sleep out of my eyes. Squinting, trying to focus on the far too small screen. “Trees on fire, Bay road”. Complaining, I stumbled into my turnout gear, my wife says, “With all the coughing you’ve been doing, do you think you should go out?” Ignoring her, I find my keys, mobile phone and move out into the darkness, crank up the car.
The captain is driving the truck onto the apron when I get to the fire station. I park, grab the torch, climb into the truck. We’re off. We wait for a gap in the radio traffic to give our turnout message. Time passes so the dispatcher, following protocol, turns out two other brigades because we haven’t given our turn out message yet. Now we have five tankers out in the wee small hours of the morning. That could be as many as 25 sleep deprived volunteers out in the winter darkness searching for this dangerous fire. We are told there will be a man in a yellow van who will lead us to the fire. We find the yellow van with a canoe on the roof. He leads us to the scene.
Three huge heaps of trees burning away merrily. The farmer had been cleaning up an old windrow of pine trees. The guy who phoned it in admitted he was a city boy only down to go out fishing in his canoe. (At one O’clock in the morning???). He had never seen farmers burning heaps before, but he thought he’d better be on the safe side and call it in. Were we going to put it out? No way! No way were we taking the tanker off the road into these wet paddocks. Something to learn. Mr Farmer, we all grumble at the intrusions of City Hall into the running of our farms, but here is one place where it can actually help. Phone ‘Vicfire’ (you can do it on 1800 668 551) and notify them of your burn, when it will start and how long you expect it to be burning. Vicfire could then have informed that idiot fisherman that the burn is registered and is OK. This will mean that at least I will get some sleep.
KL Wilson, Firefighter, Kernot-Grantville fire brigade.