Truck be­came stuck in ta­ble drain as fire roared over head

Wangaratta Chronicle - - News -

THE fire of De­cem­ber 22, 1943 be­gan near the Hume High­way at Bowser.

The smoke was seen by a group of men work­ing nearby and they al­most man­aged to get it un­der con­trol with leather beat­ers, be­fore it took off to­wards Tar­rawingee.

Vol­un­teers were called out from Wan­garatta and they ar­rived on the fire unit - a Ford V-8 with a pow­ered pump, made by pro­gres­sive lo­cal farmer WB Richard­son, among only a handful of units in ser­vice across the state at the time.

The vol­un­teers found the fire had greatly in­creased in in­ten­sity and had crossed the road at Rei­ds­dale, where a howl­ing, swirling wind was lift­ing sheaves of hay into the air - ex­plod­ing them like ro­man can­dles and show­er­ing the Wan­garatta unit with sparks and smoke.

A des­per­ate at­tempt was made to turn the truck around to get the men to safety but it be­came stuck in a ta­ble drain and was held fast while the fire roared over it.

In ad­di­tion to the 10 peo­ple who died as a re­sult of the fire, a fur­ther eight suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries and scores of other ca­su­al­ties pre­sented at Wan­garatta hos­pi­tal for treat­ment, with the town tak­ing on the ap­pear­ance of a bat­tle zone.

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