Narrow escape as wind changes
Horses in tow, woman drives 3km to safety
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.