GET a rare look into the fury of Western Australia’s bushfires and into the lives of the men and women fighting them with a new documentary series airing this Sunday.
In a world first the National Geographic series Bushfire Wars, produced by WA film-makers Sea Dog TV International, takes viewers into the heart of the inferno with more than forty fixed-cameras on helicopters, planes, bulldozers, four-wheel-drive trucks and body-cams.
Episodes one and two of the eight-part 30-minute series follows staff and firefighters from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction’s Parks and Wildlife Service Mundaring-based regional office.
The Perth Hills District team is responsible for not only the management of bushfires on the ground but the year round management of firebreaks as well as fauna management.
Fire operations officer, and now local star, Paul Musarra said viewers might find the dangers of the job, and its demand on firefighters, confronting.
“This is in the trucks, in your face, in the smoke, in the heat, it’s the story of us and what we do,” he said.
“It will be very confronting because we do long hours, the public think we can knock off and come back the next day and start again but this is the tale of what we do and how we manage it to come out the other end and safely contain the fire and protect people.”
He said he was initially scared by the prospect of being in front of the camera but quickly became appreciative of the opportunity.
“We are fortunate to have the privilege to look after the bush, State forests, national parks and nature reserves and I hope out of the series people can appreciate how bad bushfires are and what we do in a burning sense throughout the year,” he said.
“It’s not only about the fire front but also it’s about protecting biodiversity and the health of the forest, keeping it there for future generations.”
Camera crews spent two years across two fire seasons and shoulder burn-off seasons with the Perth Hills District team who cover a 500,000sq ha area between Bindoon in the north and Collie in the south.
The first two episodes dive deep into the heart of the out-of-control Sawyers Valley bushfires, started by arsonists in January this year.
Swan regional manager Benson Todd said the series captured the cohesiveness between local volunteer brigades and Department of Fire and Emergency Services career firefighters.
“Particularly in the Perth Hills it’s very rare to have one agency at a fire, we’re all in it together and you’ll see that in the footage of the Sawyers Valley fire,” he said.
“It’s great to have a bit of appreciation of our work but more so to be able to show our friends and family exactly what we do.
“The stories we have can’t give it justice but the pictures do, it’s as close as it’s going to get to what we experience day-in day-out.”
Sea Dog TV International producer, cinematographer and director Leighton De Barros saluted the frontline heroes and acknowledged that for some, fighting a raging inferno is part of their day-to-day job.
“Film is a powerful observational and educational tool and we wanted to depict the action as it happened, from the aerial water bombers to armoured bulldozers to people fighting the fires on foot,” he said.
“The state-of-the-art fixed camera technology used in this series revolutionises the storytelling.
“It tells an authentic and compelling truth, enabling the audience to feel present in the moment alongside the women and men fighting the bushfires.”
Bushfire Wars airs this Sunday, December 2 on the National Geographic Channel available on Foxtel, Fetch and via the National Geographic app.
By Claire Ottaviano