Blue Mountains Bush Fires – October 2013
Thursday 17th of October 2013 was an unusually hot day for mid Spring & the strong winds definitely didn’t provide any added comfort to the temperatures. By early afternoon the day wasn’t getting any better, with large plumes of smoke rising from the Blue Mountains something was clearly wrong! Two large fires had started in the Mountains threatening Lithgow & Mt Wilson in the North and also Springwood & Winmalee in the lower mountains. With the situation evolving the Local RRT Team Leader went to investigate & offer help, shortly after the RRT Trailer & two teams were deployed for immediate assistance in the lower mountain region.
Initially two refreshment stations were setup, one close to the main road block serving waiting traffic & Police with drinks & the second within the grounds of Winmalee Shopping Centre where many locals & schools were gathering as an emergency assembly point. After making contact with the RFS Incident Controller space was made at Winmalee Fire station for RRT to setup a larger refreshment station & started providing sausage sandwiches & drinks to emergency personnel, feeding close to 300 in the first few hours.
Shift changes were prepared & extra food & drinks were organised to allow the RRT Station to be manned 24hrs for the next few days, the team continued providing meals through the night as well as taking meals & drinks to the fire front where teams of fire fighters couldn’t leave during their gruelling 12hr shifts. Friday started with serving bacon & Egg rolls to those starting or finishing shifts & a welcome visit by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimons, local federal member Louise Markus & Federal Human Resources Minister – Senator Marice Payne, lifting the spirits of the hard working RFS Teams & showing the Prime Minster’s deep interesting & care for the Nation & its people.
By Monday night the fire had moved closer to Falconbridge, requiring the RFS Incident Command & the Rapid Relief Team to relocate to Falconbridge fire station. With weather conditions deteriorating, Wednesday was predicted to be the most dangerous day for the fires, bringing up to 1500 fire fighters to the mountains, the fire fighters managed to keep the fire at bay through the day & the RRT Team were busy providing close to 400 meals per shift. Although things were busy serving meals & keeping the Fire crews refreshed we were very grateful for the kind donations of food from many businesses, locals & sympathetic Sydney siders that kept the stores well stocked.
After 9 days, 18 shifts, 180 RRT personnel, 1500 firemen, 199 houses lost & countless number of meals things started to slow down, the RFS gained control over the fire & RRT was stood down on Saturday night. With that fire crews pulled out & locals returned home….those that were still standing!