Bull­doz­ing en­deav­ours save nu­mer­ous homes

Daily Mercury - - A TRIBUTE TO OUR 2018 FIRE HEROES -

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.

Photo: Eun­gella Moun­tain Edge Es­cape

This shows Eun­gella range show­ing the dev­as­ta­tion im­pact­ing parts of the Pi­o­neer Val­ley.

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