Firefighters faced extreme conditions fighting Collie blazes

Nicole SalmeriBunbury Herald
Out of control bushfire in Collie. 15 December 2019.
Camera IconOut of control bushfire in Collie. 15 December 2019. Credit: 7NEWS

Extreme heat and changing winds made conditions “extremely difficult” for more than 200 firefighters battling two blazes near Collie at the weekend.

Collie Fire and Rescue captain Shane Hickson said the two fires, which blanketed the region in thick smoke and ash, should serve as a warning for residents to be more prepared.

Mr Hickson said he did not realise how bad conditions were until the Boeing 737 aeroplane, arrived to drop water on the fires.

“It threw a big perspective on how bad the fires really were,” he said.

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“It got within a kilometre of properties but I’m not sure how much land was burnt just yet.

It was quite hot and the wind direction kept changing quite a bit and 40 plus heat played a significant role in how we tackled the fire and how that affected the crews on the ground.

Shane Hickson

Two fireys had to be hospitalised due to smoke inhalation but had since been discharged and were doing well.

Dardanup chief bushfire officer Chris Hynes said fireys worked through the night to help contain the blaze.

“It was certainly hot ... we have to cut the fire breaks through the bush to get in there and put the fire out,” Mr Hynes said.

“It is a long, drawn out battle.

“It was about 10km to track it around the fire, it took us all night to get around in front of it.

Mr Hynes said even though not every day had a total fire ban throughout summer, it did not take much for a fire to begin.

Mr Hickson reminded people to have a fire plan and check the DFES website and have a look at the fire chat link.

“It’s got some awesome tips on how to prepare for fire and what you should have ready and how you understand the different advice levels we have,” he said.

Just make sure your properties are clean and empty your gutters and make sure around the house is clear because it makes it a lot easier for firefighters to do their job if we have to protect it.

Shane Hickson

Mr Hickson thanked volunteers from crews across the region who helped fight the fires.

“There were some from as far as Kendenup, Broomehill and Perth,” he said.

“I think the State would be lost without our volunteers.

It is a big resource that is not paid for ... the labour is free of charge and I don’t think people realise how much they actually save the State.

Shane Hickson

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