By Claire Ottaviano
WHILE many around Perth were recovering from the effects of New Year’s Eve festivities, Darlington and hills volunteer firefighters were on the ground defending their territory from the first bushfire of the year, later triggering an outpouring of community appreciation.
The January 1 fire began in the Hudman Road Ampitheatre near Boya Quarry just before 1pm and quickly became out-of-control and unpredictable.
With the help of two water bombers, two helitacs, aerial surveillance and 100 volunteer and career firefighters, the fire was brought under control and given the all clear the following morning at 11.16am.
Darlington Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade captain Ricky Harvey said steep terrain and proximity to houses were the biggest issues of the blaze.
“Generally the steep rocky terrain made access for some areas quite difficult and the wind direction was initially blowing out of the quarry towards the residential edge of Darlington and the village.”
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services aerial fleet greatly contributed to the efforts.
“The helitacs and planes are quite often the difference to catching it early opposed to it maintaining a run,” Mr Harvey said.
“Water bombers can dump huge amounts of water in a little amount of time in places that were difficult for us to access.
“DFES’s initial response was to throw everything at it, those resources contributed to getting it out quickly.”
In the days following, the brigade received a ground swell of community support which prompted Mr Harvey to post his gratitude to the brigade’s Facebook page.
“We are volunteers, as all volunteers will tell you, we don’t do it for the thanks or praise but when we do get it it’s very appreciated,” he said.
“It goes full circle, we’re there to support the community and it’s nice to know they know we’re out there and exist to protect the community.”
Darlington Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade has attended fires as far south as Northcliffe in the State’s south-west, Jurien Bay in the north and Merredin to the east, but fighting a fire on home turf ignited more flames in the hearts of our local heroes.
“As fire fighters we respond to fires right throughout the Darling Scarp, it’s what we’re trained to do and we’re tasked to do our very best,” Mr Harvey said.
“But when it’s literally in people’s backyards and the boundaries of your station, our fire station is three streets away from where the fire was, it heightened everyone’s senses and gives a sense of ownership, it’s our members who have family and friends who are potentially at risk.”
The community took the chance to thank brigade members by visiting the station last Saturday with words and gifts of gratitude.