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38 Defence Issue 1 2015
A Woomera Test Range supervisor knows
first-hand the devastation of bushfires.
Corporal Nicholas Wiseman
USHFIRES inflict significant damage
and even lead to loss of property and
life. The recent bushfires in South
Australia and Western Australia
highlight the dangers faced every year
living in a hot and dry country.
Knowing full well of the dangers of bushfires,
the Supervisor Tracking Systems Coordinator for
Woomera Test Range, Trevor Scott, based at RAAF
Base Edinburgh, carefully selected a property close
to his childhood home of the Adelaide Hills which
he considered defendable should such a disaster
happen, not that he expected it to.
However, on 2 January, Trevor’s worst nightmares
were realised when fire began to engulf the tinder-
dry Adelaide Hills.
Like many of Trevor’s neighbours, he had to
decide if he would make a stand against the fire or
leave, a decision he would not be able to change if
he decided to stay.
He decided to fight, firm in the belief he and his
family could successfully defend the property.
“Not every fire is catastrophic, but you need to
know when to make the decision to stay and defend
your property or evacuate and not leave it too late,”
Trevor says. “This was the second significant fire in
my life, but both were completely different.
“During this fire we managed to save the house
and sheds, but probably lost 50 to 60 per cent of
grazing land and fencing.”
The fire was heading straight towards Trevor’s
property but as fires and weather patterns can be
unpredictable, a wind change took it away only
200 metres from his western boundary.
“I knew we’d get hit from the rear of the property.
So, my brother-in-law and I spent the night dousing
out flames in an area directly to the west where
there were a large number of trees and undergrowth
alight,” he says.
“We used about 35 tanks of water with the tractor
that night. I think that’s one of the main reasons we
didn’t get hit as bad.”
The following day the fire came closer and Trevor
launched into a second battle with his wife and
daughter backing him up with hoses and sprinklers
at the house and sheds.
This time he was joined by his son and brother-
in-law armed with three tractors, two carrying water
while the third cut a fire break.
At a crucial point in the 3-4 hour battle the fire
broke the containment line and came within 30
metres of the hayshed before being brought under
control again. By mid-afternoon, while fighting the
fire on the western side in the neighbour’s property,
the Country Fire Service (CFS) reached them.
“The CFS truck came up the road because the fire
had got into a large group of pine trees and there was
a very noticeable wall of flame,” Trevor says.
“The CFS came in and after that a helicopter
dumped onto the trees – one minute they were fully
alight and the next it was out completely, it was an
Still susceptible to spot fires due to the conditions,
the danger was not over and the family remained
vigilant keeping a close eye on the conditions.
Later that night, when the fire front had passed,
Trevor’s son and brother-in-law assisted a neighbour
to defend his property with his tractor and 500 litre
tank of water.
Trevor says that the emergency continued over the
coming days with trees and logs still smouldering.
“There was a real potential for it to flare up again
with the hot winds,” he says.
Days later, with the risk almost gone, Trevor was
able to assess the damage further and found he had
also lost 1.2 kilometres of fencing on the property,
although luckily no livestock had been lost.
With the battle now over, Trevor says he wants
to ensure others are fully aware of the dangers of
bushfires and they are adequately prepared.
“Bushfires are an unfortunate fact of life in the
Adelaide Hills,” he says. “I looked at the property
when I purchased it for its defences against fire.
After we moved in, I spent six months clearing a
legal patch around the house and removing problem
gumtrees to mitigate the risk of bushfire.”
It was that preparation that put Trevor in a better
position to defend his property.
“We made the decision to stay and fight and that’s
a decision you need to make earlier rather than later,
as you risk getting caught in the fire driving away if
left too late,” he says.
“You need to be prepared to fight in the worst of
conditions and need to have a plan.
“Some of the infrastructure to defend was already
on the property when we purchased, but you need
to be prepared to spend some money on firefighting
equipment if you’re in an area prone to bushfire.”
A GATE collection was held at
RAAF Base Edinburgh and at the
DSTO Edinburgh site in support
of Defence members affected
by the Adelaide Hills bushfire.
A total of $11,152 was
collected on 19 January.
There were four ADF and
three APS members of RAAF
Base Edinburgh impacted by
the bushfires, who sustained
varied losses and damage to
property and livestock.
A total of 16 members
were evacuated during the
emergency from 2-7 January
and others provided support to
the local community with food
donations and wildlife rescue
Chaplaincy and DCO support
was offered to all those affected.
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