By Gav Ross

Volunteers brought The Gurdies fire under control quickly after the CFA issued an emergency warning for the area on Wednesday afternoon. G030316

Volunteers brought The Gurdies fire under control quickly after the CFA issued an emergency warning for the area on Wednesday afternoon. G030316

A local contractor donated the use of an excavator to clear a path in the bush, allowing better access for tankers. G050316

A local contractor donated the use of an excavator to clear a path in the bush, allowing better access for tankers. G050316

LEFT: Wonthaggi Fire Brigade captain Kim O’Connor and Parks Victoria’s Brian Martin survey the scene at The Gurdies. G060316

LEFT: Wonthaggi Fire Brigade captain Kim O’Connor and Parks Victoria’s Brian Martin survey the scene at The Gurdies. G060316

TWO separate blazes in and around Grantville last Wednesday night marked the most significant fires for the area in over half a century.
It was a tense afternoon and evening for residents, with many fearing the worst as they enacted their fire plans for the first time and fled home.
Kernot-Grantville Fire Brigade captain Andrew Blackney said volunteers were paged to the first fire in Gurdies-St Heliers Road just after 4.30pm.
“As soon as we arrived at the location we could see that two houses and sheds were under serious threat,” he said.
“It didn’t take long for the fire to start spotting elsewhere, putting another property in danger.”
Within half an hour of the first tankers arriving, the CFA issued an emergency warning for residents and two water bombers were called in for support.
A severe wind change just before 6pm caused more headaches for fire crews.
“We had the run of the fire stopped but there was spotting in multiple areas on the roadside,” Cpt Blackney added.
The situation was made even more difficult when another fire broke out in Nyora at around the same time, resulting in several trucks leaving The Gurdies in a rush.
Cpt Blackney said around five acres of scrub and bush was left scorched in The Gurdies.
It was a close call, but the worst was yet to come.
At 7.50pm – just as crews were dousing the last few smouldering tree trunks in The Gurdies – another fire broke out in south west Grantville.
Cpt Blackney said a CFA Strike Team – which had been sent to respond to The Gurdies incident – was immediately redirected to Queensferry Road where a fire was running rampant through mangroves and other foreshore vegetation.
“That one was burning fairly spectacularly and intensely and it seemed close to the road, but it actually didn’t get closer than 200m to houses,” Cpt Blackney said.
“But there was a substantial amount of soot and embers raining down all over town.
“We were very worried another fire was going to start just from that.”
The second fire was under control by 10pm, but crews remained in the area overnight and throughout Thursday.
Wake-up call
Cpt Blackney said it was a “lucky escape” for property owners in close vicinity to the fires.
“Without a doubt, this was the busiest day for firefighting in this area in at least 50 years,” he said.
“We’ve had rare instances where we’ve responded to two small fires in one day, but nothing like this.
“Both fires had the potential to significantly impact properties.”
Cpt Blackney also hoped the incidents would act as a wake-up call to those who have been slow in developing and practicing individual fire plans.
The warning at a Fire Ready Meeting at Grantville Hall just six days earlier didn’t seem to sink in for some.
“I spoke to several locals on Thursday and they said that although they’d attended the meeting, they never thought fires this big would happen,” he continued.
“We’ve called another special community meeting this Tuesday (tonight) because we figure people will have a lot of questions and we’re happy to talk more about the importance of fire plans and what everyone should be aware of for the remainder of summer.”