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Issue No. 411 March 2017

Snapshots from the front line

Field intelligence officer, Senior Constable Rod Fraser was helping evacuate residents in Worsleys Road on the Wednesday when they were joined by a bulldozer crew:

A bulldozer carves out fire breaks.

“These guys had been contracted to work in the Adventure Park but by this stage that was already too far gone so they were offering to help put in fire breaks.

“The fire was encroaching on to people’s properties. The volunteer on the bulldozer drove straight into the danger and started creating fire breaks to protect the houses.

“He had flames going up around the side of his cab and helicopters were flying past dropping water on him but he kept going back and forth and digging that break.

“The guy on that dozer deserves a few beers, or perhaps a medal.”

With helicopters scooping water from a swimming pool, Rod consulted the fire chief then set up a system to ensure a constant water supply:

“I found out there was a water hydrant nearby and set up a makeshift system with a fire hose to fill up the pool.

Then we got out of there because that fire was moving out of control very quickly. I was so glad to see their house survived.

“It was a bit frightening but you run on adrenaline. We were just trying so hard to do what we could to save lives and property.

“The fire was just ugly. The fire guys must have done a bloody amazing job that night because I was in the area till 1 or 2am and that was one massive big glowing ball of flames.

A helicopter fills up from the replenished pool.

“I’m so glad we managed to save some houses but so gutted for those who lost their places. If we didn’t have that guy on the dozer and the guys in the helicopters I think every house on that hill would be gone.”

Senior Constable Paul Mark was among the first staff to reach the fire scene on day one, helping establish cordons and evacuate residents:

“It was huge, overwhelming - the biggest fire I’ve ever seen.

“People were desperate to get into their properties and that became our biggest challenge.

“People wanted to get back in to save their cat or dog, so we spent a lot of time trying to explain that there were safety reasons why we couldn’t let them back in.

“Some would yell abuse and try to drive three cordons over to get alternative routes in.

“The other big issue was rubberneckers blocking the roads. When the second fire broke out we just couldn’t get emergency vehicles up the hill.

“We had people with their kids standing above the flames.

That people would risk their and their family’s lives had me lost for words.”

Inspector Craig McKay, District Operations and Support Manager, was called in as a response coordinator on the first night, tasked with reassuring locals and undertaking risk management for our staff:

Police and partner agencies worked together to keep people and property safe.
Photo: Senior Constable Rod Fraser, Pip Ormrod

“I’m so proud of the way Police responded to this emergency, the number of our people who put up their hands and volunteered to help was incredible - talk about professionalism.

“I received phone calls up till 1am with people telling me they were absolutely amazed by how Police had responded.

One person emailed me saying it was enormous what we’d done for the community - that was incredibly humbling.

“It shows the level of respect and trust and confidence the public has in us as emergency responders and the difference we make.

“The various emergency services have worked together significantly post-earthquake so we go well alongside each other - but of course every civil defence emergency has different challenges.

“It’ll be interesting to see the coordination between agencies when we move into the new Crime and Justice Precinct.”

(Additional reporting by Pip Ormrod, Police Public Affairs)

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