COOBER PEDY AND DISTRICTS FACING WORST FIRE DANGER SEASON IN SEVERAL DECADES

Coober Pedy Firefighters face high winds as they battle a blaze on Bulgunnia Station in the Far North of the state. Photo: Peter Ikonomopoulos

COOBER PEDY: All available CFS firefighters (6) left Coober Pedy with two fire trucks at 4pm on Tuesday 29 November to fight fires on Bulgunnia Pastoral property and another burning at McDouall Peak Station, 140 – 150km South of Coober Pedy, amidst a total fireban and SEVERE + EXTREME  fire danger rating throughout the Region 4 districts.

The small crew of six CFS volunteers became four, when two members returned to Coober Pedy for urgent work commitments.  The 4 remaining volunteers worked for 26 consecutive hours attempting to contain the Bulgunnia fire against winds up to 59km/ph and gusts up to 79kmph. The Prominent Hill Emergency Response Team joined in at 6pm and worked through the night fighting the McDuall Peak fire.

The Bulgunnia fire posed a risk to visibility for motorists travelling on the Stuart Highway. Photo: Peter Ikonomopoulos

Wednesday  30 November saw the CFS firefighters clearing firebreaks on the property after the blaze tore through 1200 hectares, but left, still waiting on replacement fire crews from other Region 4 areas.   No immediate CFS crew or fire trucks were available in Coober Pedy throughout this time.

The Coober Pedy CFS has been appealing for volunteers in the area to come forward for some months to prepare for the 2011/2012 fire ban season across these Far North districts. CFS Region Four covers 66% of the state, approximately 700 000 square kilometers incorporating heavy livestock areas, some grain production, a number of mining operations and many small communities.  Coober Pedy is a Regional CFS Fire base and is a venue for training and practice procedures.

Coober Pedy’s Acting CFS Fire Captain, Jayden Watts says, “Able bodied men and women from the Region are urgently needed to provide assistance to the CFS by phoning 0400 298 164.  Those who are able to train with the CFS for just TWO hours each fortnight need to make that call urgently.” 

Active Firefighters need to be 18 years old and upwards, and can do a Basic Firefighter 1 Course.  This is a one weekend activity held in Coober Pedy.  A Skills Maintenance Drill – a two hour session, is held each year.

“Our district needs CFS volunteers desperately and it needs them NOW so that we can maintain adequate crew numbers during the current fire danger period to cover this wide area.  With trained firefighters strategically placed across the North West and North East Pastoral Districts we would hope to attract more equipment to help ensure that nobody ever has to abandon their property.  Currently we are all in a precarious situation with fuel out there waiting to burn”, said Jayden.

In February this year, a fire broke out at a home in Brewster Street, Coober Pedy, claiming the life of a 51 year old local resident.  The fire was believed to be caused by a fault in an electric fan.  CFS and Emergency Services worked throughout the night of Thursday 3 February 2011 to contain the inferno and prevent the fire spreading to nearby properties in the town. 

The Coober Pedy CFS attends callouts from up to 200km in any direction. The surrounding districts are facing the worst fire danger season in several decades due to the increase in  rainfall earlier in the year, now providing considerable burnable fuel.

Senior Sergeant Greg Burns of Coober Pedy Police says, “Coober Pedy as we all know is a remote and isolated community, and we cannot rely on others to help us.  The Country Fire Service provides a most valuable service to our town and the surrounding districts.  I would urge anyone looking to volunteer their time to consider the CFS. Remember it’s everyone’s responsibility to prepare for the possibility of a fire in the home or wildfires”.

“With the potential for wildfires in our district this year we again remind everyone to report any suspicious activity to Police on 131444 or Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000, or call into the Coober Pedy Police Station”, said Senior Sergeant Burns. 

For a few hours weekly community members can assist firefighters with Brigade Operations Support, at the Coober Pedy Fire Station..  This level of assistance does not require any firefighting training.  The following Brigade Operations Support positions are available. (These are volunteer positions)

*  Admin Coordinator
*  Equipment Coordinator
*  Communications Coordinator

 “Brigade Op Support” also provides an opportunity for CFS fundraising, social activities and occasional meals or refreshments for firefighters.  Partners, friends or family members of firefighters may welcome this opportunity to be involved.

The following fire bans were in place in the Coober Pedy Region for Tuesday 29 November, 2011 North West Pastoral  SEVERE         North East Pastoral  EXTREME

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