I finished reading Kinglake-350 the other day, and one part stood out:
For a firie this is the most terrifying experience of all: they all know the names of locations—Upper Beaconsfield, Linton—where entire crews have perished in recent years. But burnover is, in fact, a rare occurrence. There’s many a firefighter who’s been on the job for twenty, thirty years and never experienced one.
There are two fire brigades on the mountain—at Kinglake and Kinglake West—with four trucks between them. In the next few hours, all four vehicles will be burnt over.
There may be many firefighters who never experience burn overs, but I’m not one them! In fact, I’ve had the unfortunate experience to have had it happen a few times in my career. The photo above is probably the worst incident I was a part of and occurred on an out of county fire with a brand new Engine that hadn’t been on the job for a week yet.
We were assigned to do structure protection in a Type I pavement princess, that was fresh from the shops, and on the way up the wind shifted dramatically. Huge embers started to bombard us from the palm trees and we ended up sucking in an ember that killed our engine. It was deader than dead, and spot fires were starting to break out all over the place as the wind kept dumping those embers and rollers. We had passed a really good safe zone not too far away, so we ended up grabbing some gear and our shelters and hiking back towards it . When we reached it, the fire was pretty damn close, and the Captain gave the order to deploy shelters as the fire spotted around us and started to bear down on the area.
I admit it, since we were in a pretty good spot, I couldn’t help but peek around the fire shelter at times. There are no words to describe that sight that we were all confronted with. The incredible roaring intensity, the radiated heat, the super heated air, and the noise. Oh man, I will never forget the volume of the fury! It felt like my ear drums would burst from the roaring and cracking that encircled our safe zone.
The good news is that even though we weren’t in our deployed area yet, we still maintained LCES, and followed the watch out rules, and that picture tells the rest of the story. The fire roared through the area with insane destruction, power, and speed of an unimaginable force. We were all fine, no injuries, no worries, but the engine was an absolute goner. The department pulled that series back into the shops immediately and made changes that prevented anything similar happening in the future.
So as fire season is upon us, let’s always remember:
LCES - 10 Fire Orders - 18 Watch Outs!