Bulldozing endeavours save numerous homes
THROUHGOUT the Dalrymple Heights fires, the countless properties saved by the bulldozing efforts of Mick Zarb were astounding.
The prominent former cane farmer worked intensively as the blaze tore through the region, operating diligently with rural firefighters to ensure houses were spared from its wrath.
The flames were malicious, and hot on their tail, but Mr Zarb’s pursuit was relentless; offering his dozer and services to pave out numerous fire breaks.
Without them, who knows what carnage would have unfolded?
“The first break I had to do was around the council communication tower; I pushed the breaks around that to save the tower,” Mr Zarb said.
“The fire was almost on top of us there but we managed to push the break around it.
“The Walkerston Brigade truck was there, along with the rural fires truck, and we saved the tower but then we just kept moving trying to keep ahead of the fires.
“After that it was residential houses; without the fire breaks I don’t think they would’ve stood a chance. Between the two of us – the breaks and the rural fire trucks – it made a big difference in stopping buildings from burning.”
Time was of the essence, and thus there was no rest for the weary – as was the case for many dedicated volunteers.
Mr Zarb persisted in stints in excess of 12 hours a day as the rapid nature of the fires gained in momentum.
“The fire trucks were right behind us and we didn’t have spare time, we just had to keep moving as fast as we could because the fires were travelling that fast,” Mr Zarb said.
“It got to a stage where the fire was almost behind us all the way there; the rainforest along Dalrymple Road – we had breaks but it just jumped them. I had to be on the move all the time pushing breaks around each house. We just had to keep moving as fast as we could because the fires were travelling that fast.”
Eungella Community Development Association president Ian Wright alluded to Mr Zarb’s unrelenting efforts; largely attributing the protection of his home to his ceaseless devotion. However, as is the case with the entire community, modesty runs rampant. It’s not an act of heroism, it’s as though it’s their civic duty to help their friends, families and neighbours in need.
“I couldn’t take all the credit on that; between the rural fires and myself we managed to save his house with fire breaks, otherwise it wouldn’t of stood a chance,” Mr Zarb said.
“It’s just the nature of the fire, it was that fierce – we had to do all we could to break that fire down. Through everyone’s efforts, we managed.”
He wasn’t the only one using his skill set to protect the properties of those who couldn’t – even without directly battling the towering infernos.
Wayne Reading’s pre-emptive action to create additional breaks played an instrumental role in the protection of many Eungella homes, volunteering his bulldozer to minimise the kindling available to the escalating wild fire.
“It was scary when you see how close it was getting; some of the flare ups were unbelievable,” Mr Reading said.
“I thought I was doing the right thing in preparation for when they (the firefighters) did have to come and they’d then have access.
“The whole seven days I worked went like two days; it was so fast and full on for everyone.”
In the aftermath of these catastrophic events, the recovery is sure to be extensive. The ferocity of the immense pyre paints an even clearer picture of how inspiring the efforts of the community were.
“I’ve never seen it like that the cyclones over the past years, with broken branches and trees on the ground, then the heat and dry grass; everything put together just made it so fierce,” Mr Zarb said.
“It was worse than the cyclones I think, it was that destructive a fire.”
Not all heroes wear capes, but given the manner of the event, it’s the least these volunteers deserve.
This shows Eungella range showing the devastation impacting parts of the Pioneer Valley.