Inside the fire zone from a ‘humble’ volunteer
A VOLUNTEER firefighter, whose wife had to evacuate their Cooroibah home has shared what it was like to be inside the "intense" fire zone.
While nearly 8000 residents were fleeing the danger of an imminent bushfire, hundreds of brave men and women were ready to enter the danger zone.
As well as emergency service personal, convoys of volunteer firefighters were there to face the fire head on.
This humble firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous as he believed he deserved no more praise than every other person who did their part across the emergency, has shared what it means to him to be a volunteer.
After an "emotional" return home on Sunday, the volunteer saw just how close the fire came to his home.
"It's one thing to evacuate from home away from the advancing fire and it is extremely emotional, but what is it like to fight a fire, to head to the flames and smoke - especially if the individual is a volunteer?," he said.
"I know that what we do has an element of risk and there is always the potential for something to go wrong, but with good training, the right equipment, team work, good mates and a sense of community, we always seem to get through it."
For this Cooroibah resident, fighting fire is something he has done for more than 38 years.
"I started my career with the forces, worked in Fire and Rescue and now form part of the volunteer Rural Brigade," he said.
As the emergency loomed on Friday, he has shared just what life is like as a volunteer fighting a fire.
"At the station the vehicles are always loaded and ready to turn out, so once we get the call, don the yellow suits, established a crew, it's off to the location given," he said.
"As a volunteer organisation, you never know who will turn up, or if you will have a full team, therefore it is so important to be fully trained, have good communications and get to know the strengths of your colleagues.
"As you approach the fire, it can become surreal because of the way the smoke filters sunlight.
"It sometimes feels like you're in a different dimension. It can be very eerie."
He said with larger bushfires, or canopy burns, the wall of flames can reach 10-20m and move extremely quickly depending on what's burning and the wind speed.
"The fire front and flames seems more alive than inanimate," the volunteer said.
"When the fire's moves quickly, it can sound like a jet flying overhead.
"The heat is tremendous, more so at the height of summer, and can hit you like a punch in the face.
"Hollow logs or gum trees can suddenly explode and sounds much like a war zone - I know having been in several."
He said one of the biggest dangers were flying embers which can fall on firefighters and start spot fires.
"Like any other outdoor situation you find yourself at the mercy of the weather," he said.
"On a sudden wind shift you could find you have lost the fire front or it has jumped behind you, this could mean trouble.
"Large bushfires often create their own weather, so you have to pay attention to the shifting patterns, and be constantly aware of your situation.
"Everyone has to be responsible for everyone else, constantly asking yourself am I, we in a good spot? Can we get out of here?"
He believed the nature of bushfires over the years had not become "more dangerous" but more people were living in high risk zones.
"I personally do not think bushfires have got more dangerous, it's just that we have got closer to them," he said.
"Only a few decades ago, fires used to just burn and die out in the outback.
"Now many seeking a more tranquil lifestyle, a 'tree change', build in high risk fire zones, homes simply become more kindling.
"Fire can't distinguish between that and the surrounding bush."
We’re responding to more than 50 fires across the state & there's around 170 crews on the ground, working to keep Queenslanders safe. Community support goes a long way to help our firefighters, who have been doing a fantastic job under trying conditions. pic.twitter.com/p2zuzUC6uq— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) November 12, 2019
He said something that had changed over the years was how they fight fires.
"There has been advances to equipment and operational techniques; the use of computers to forecast fire travel and weather, fire attack aircraft support, fire retardant foam, large volume water pumps and delivery methods," he said.
"However, innovation and technology can only go so far, it is boots on the fire ground and the volunteers in them that fight the majority of bushfires in Queensland.
He asked people to have "a thought to those that don the yellow uniform and strive to protect the community"
"So why do I volunteer, well partly for comradeship, partly to keep the 'grey matter' and body going, but mainly a sense of community, to do my bit."