Frantic battle to save homes
EIGHT homes came under severe threat from a wildfire that ripped through more than 100 hectares of property just south of Emerald on Wednesday afternoon.
The inferno, ignited by a property owner using an angle grinder near Glengallan Rd, just 6km south of Emerald Airport, spread for close to 8km and established a 2km front.
Fire crews arrived to assist landholders who fought to defend their homes. After a six-hour struggle all structures remained standing, but each was surrounded by smouldering embers just metres away.
Ross and Ashlee Trace were stuck in roadworks when they received a frantic call from their neighbour informing them the blaze was spreading to their Glengallan Rd property.
"We weren't home, and if it wasn't for our neighbours and the fire crews we wouldn't have a home," Ashlee said.
"We could see the smoke from Comet, but we had no idea how close it was until we pulled into the road."
Committed neighbours and fire crews fought heroically to save the young family of five's home. At its closest, the wall of flames was within 10m from their back veranda.
"It went up again during the night. The wind picked up and we saw a red glow in the yard," Ashlee said.
"But our neighbour, Ben Dobson, came to help again with his grader."
Due to his heroics on the day, Mr Dobson has earned himself the nickname of Rescue Ranger among the locals of Glengallan Rd.
The fire crossed the Gregory Hwy in a matter of seconds, forcing police to shut down the road. Officers later escorted traffic through the blaze to alleviate the back-up.
On the scene were two urban fire trucks from the Emerald QFRS Station, two Central Highlands council slip-on units, Rural Fire Brigades from Iona, the Gemfields and Glengallan with Comet on stand-by, two private slip-on units and a private unit from Fernlees.
A crew from Emerald's Evergreen Farms also battled the fire after it jumped the highway and began bearing down on infrastructure.
''The blaze was a timely reminder of what can happen with a bit of complacency," Emerald QFRS incident controller Lt Craig Adams said.
In charge of 265 Bravo, Lt Adams was the first to arrive on the scene of what he labelled the area's biggest wildfire of the year so far.
"He (the property owner) thought he had made the necessary precautions and had the necessary fire fighting equipment.
"Before he knew it one of the sparks had ignited grass around him and it spread quicker than he could contain," Mr Adams said.
The man had used some buckets of water to wet the ground around him before beginning his work, but the strong wind carried a spark and ignited some grass on the other side of his car.
"People need to be aware about the conditions on the day. They need to be conscious of what's around them," Mr Adams said.
"Rural property owners need to be vigilant about their water supply and the fire fighting equipment on their property. They also need to be conscious about the fuel load around their property, it's important to keep the levels low."
He said it was concerning that some of the rural properties they fought to defend had little or no fire fighting equipment of their own.
"If people choose to stay and protect their own property they need to make sure they have the right fire fighting equipment," Mr Adams said.
There is currently a suspension on all fire permits following a horrific weekend of wildfires in the state.
Wednesday's blaze was eventually contained just past sundown after crews were able to back burn from a sufficient distance. The work of Mr Dobson on his grader kept the fire at bay on the flanks.