Local volunteer firefighters battle frightening Hills inferno
FRIGHTENING scenes confronted Toodyay volunteer firefighters when local brigades rushed to battle a huge uncontrolled bushfire that destroyed dozens of Hills homes this month and forced hundreds of residents to flee to emergency evacuation centres.
Toodyay Central Brigade members helped save the Noble Falls Tavern from being destroyed on the first night of the devastating inferno.Read more
The massive bushfire was thought to have started in a house in Worooloo amid soaring temperatures on the Monday afternoon.
Strong easterly winds caused it to race quickly out of control across hundreds of square kilometres of farms and densely vegetated bush towards other Hills communities near Perth.
“It was dark when we got to Gidgegannup and the fire had already crossed Toodyay Road,” one Toodyay volunteer firefighter said.
“The fire was travelling at great speed through big trees and the heat was intense.
“It was burning all around us as far as we could see and showering the tavern with hot embers that were blowing everywhere.
“It was very scary and very dangerous with poor visibility and lots of fallen power lines.
“We were able to supply water from our Toodyay tanker up to guys from another brigade working a hose on the roof to defend it from burning embers.
“We were also able to stop the fire in a lot of dense vegetation behind the tavern (pictured above) to prevent it reaching the building.
“By the time we’d finished, whole area looked like a moonscape”.
81 homes lost
A Morangup firefighter who was called to look for trapped residents in the nearby Tilden Park residential subdivision in east Gidgegannup said the whole area looked like it had been hit by a firestorm.
“The fire went through it like a razor blade – everything is gone,” he said.
“Lots of million-dollar houses – even those surrounded by cleared spaces – were razed to the ground.
“The fire took out everything in its path.
“There was no way anybody could have survived.
“I’ve attended lots of bushfires but have never seen anything like this before.
“We searched from house to house because we didn’t know if anybody had been left behind but didn’t find anybody.
“There wasn’t any time to try to save homes.
“We stopped to help one bloke who stayed to defend his house but had to leave as soon as the immediate danger had passed to look for others.
“The worst part for me was seeing all the dead and dying animals – including kangaroos – lying all over the roads.
“It was devastating.
“At night everything you could possibly see was burning.
“We got there at 5.30pm on the Monday and left at 5.30am next day to let others take over.”
Toodyay Chief Bush Fire Control Officer Craig Stewart said all local volunteer brigades were working shifts to provide round-the-clock support for volunteer firefighters from other brigades.
“Toodyay crews have been deployed to all parts of the fireground, including from Walyunga National Park to the other side of the Great Northern Highway.
“We’ve seen a lot of burnt-out homes.
“This fire is catastrophic.
“The wild card is possible changes in wind direction caused by a degrading North-West cyclone that’s travelling down the coast towards us.
“It may turn the Hills fire around and cause it to go into the back of Gidgie.
“Fire crews are working to create containment lines and consolidate positions but some areas of the densely vegetated terrain lack roads and is too steep for fire trucks to access.”
As The Herald went to press on Thursday February 4, the WA Department of Fire and Emergency services reported that at least 81 homes had been destroyed and more than 700 residents moved to emergency evacuation centres.