Nar­row es­cape as wind changes

Horses in tow, woman drives 3km to safety

Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - SHANE FOWLES

A WOMAN who res­cued her horses from the path of yesterday’s bush­fire at Lit­tle River has told of their nar­row es­cape.

Jade Gon­za­lez said a wind change brought the fast­mov­ing grass­fire within me­tres of her as she bravely led her two horses to safety.

“If we hadn’t got out when we did … that very sec­ond, then we wouldn’t have got out,” she said, fight­ing back tears.

“The fire was so fast. And the heat was just so in­tense.”

The horses were in a pad­dock on the cor­ner of Edgars and Mcpherson roads, just north of Lit­tle River.

Af­ter cut­ting through the pad­locked gate, Ms Gon­za­lez set off for the evac­u­a­tion cen­tre es­tab­lished at Lit­tle River Re­serve.

She said the fire was ini­tially about 300m away, but swirling winds had flames quickly bear­ing down on them.

“All of a sud­den, this big bush was up in flames,” she said. “Within a cou­ple of min­utes it was on us and then we just got out.”

Driv­ing while hold­ing the horses’ reins through her car win­dow, Ms Gon­za­lez led the horses about 3.5km to the town’s foot­ball oval.

Dozens of peo­ple had gath­ered at the sport­ing re­serve, with many tak­ing valu­able pos­ses­sions and pets to the refuge.

Long-term Lit­tle River res­i­dent Shar­ron Cole was there with her dog Kahlua.

She had driven the fam­ily camper­van to the oval, with her hus­band re­main­ing at their Boa­dles Lane prop­erty in case he needed to de­fend their home.

Mrs Cole has lived through the dev­as­tat­ing 1985 bush­fires, and a spate of de­lib­er­ately lit blazes in the re­gion dur­ing 2013 and 2014.

“We had a fire­bug, there were three to four fires in a mat­ter of weeks,” she said.

One of those di­rectly threat­ened the fam­ily home.

“It burnt to within 100m of the fence line and our sheds,” she said.

The many ex­pe­ri­ences have taught Mrs Cole about the volatile and quick-chang­ing na­ture of fires in the dry pad­docks that lie be­tween the You Yangs and the river.

“You just never know which way the wind can go, it swings around.”

TOUGH DAY: Jade Gon­za­lez, who fled the fire with her horses, strug­gles to con­tain her emo­tions at the lo­cal oval.

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