IT WAS the worst possible day for a bushfire to start.
Temperatures had soared into the high 30s and with a change on the way, the wind had swung strongly around to the north-west, driving the blaze towards a beautiful country home on Andersons Road at Leongatha South, just east of Hoggart’s Road, near the Leongatha Aerodrome.
When Captain of the Leongatha South CFA Brigade, Hilco Zuidema arrived in his private car, to answer the 4.35pm emergency call last Tuesday, January 28, five acres of heavily treed bush, beside the house block, were well involved and the flames were threatening the kids’ playground and house.
Thankfully, the family wasn’t at home at the time, reportedly in Korumburra for a dip in the pool, as you would be.
“A passing milk tanker driver raised the alarm, we believe, and the family would like to get in touch with him to thank him.”
There’s little doubt he saved their home, according to Mr Zuidema.
Tankers from Leongatha and Leongatha South were soon on the scene and together with eight others from the likes of Ruby, Berrys Creek, Korumburra, Koonwarra and Inverloch, they were responsible for a “great save”.
“It was well alight when we got there and it had also burnt about five acres of hay, already cut and waiting to be baled the next day, I believe,” Mr Zuidema said.
“There’s a disused road at the back of that and if it had gotten in there, amongst the shrub and stuff through there, it could have been a whole lot worst.”
It was bad enough.
Flames and the heat from the fire burnt the wall of the cubby house and melted some Laserlight sheeting above the barbecue area.
It could so easily have damaged the house which was right in the line of fire.
As it was, the fire burnt hard and hot in what had been an attractive bush area beside the house, with the result that many trees and large branches were left hanging or dangerous, many of them still burning after the blaze had been contained.
“It was potentially a bit dangerous in there so we didn’t go in there much until we could make it safe.”
That involved an all-night vigil by one tanker and a return to the scene next day by several of the brigades to cut down trees, perform further blacking out and generally to make the area safe.
It’s a location that will now be watched closely until this run of hot weather lets up.
The brigades were there for most of the day, earning the heartfelt gratitude of the property owner who posted her thanks and admiration on Facebook after the event.
Police and fire investigators also attended the scene and isolated what they believe was the ignition point beside the road.
It was reported that it may have been a discarded cigarette butt which started the blaze in the table drain beside the road on a Total Fire Ban Day, from where it quickly spread into the bush and soon had the house under threat.
Simple things like that can have drastic consequences on days of high fire danger and it’s a further warning to everyone to take ‘total fire ban’ and ‘fire danger day’ warnings seriously.
There were many messages of thanks posted on the Sentinel-Times’ Facebook page and shared around on social media generally which is no more than this great organisation of volunteers deserves. Well done!