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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Local firies praised for saving Empire Vale property

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On behalf of Jack and Ursula Elliott and myself I would like to extend thanks to the following fire brigades: Woodburn, Wardell, Meershaum Vale, Alstonville, Newrybar, Byron, Wilson Creek, Main Arm, Lennox Head and Federal who were absolutely amazing when some vandals lit a fire at Empire Vale on Friday, 7 October.

I received a phone call at 6.20pm when I was in Ballina to say that my property was on fire. I rushed home and saw flames everywhere, both on my property and the Elliott’s property.

Within a short space of time four brigades had arrived. The fire crews were some of the best organised people I have ever witnessed. They operated with minor difficulties, like a dead battery in one fire truck and a pump which would not prime in another.

The teamwork was excellent and when one brigade had done about four hours the next relief crew arrived to do their roster. The Ballina police were also in attendance.

On the Friday evening, Zac was instructed to put in a containment line to stop the fire reaching the Patches Beach hamlet. At about midnight the fire had jumped the containment line and was roaring south fanned by a northerly wind.

Another containment line had to be put in. By then the hill just inside my front gate was well alight and the undergrowth and casuarina trees were sending flames high into the air.

It was no easy job for Zac to put in containment lines under the direction of the firies, as this entailed making a buffer at least 20 metres wide and removing some trees in the process. He spent nine hours straight on the tractor and it was thanks to his help that a there was no property damage other than burnt vegetation.

I saw the trunk of a tea tree in the Elliott’s property well alight like a spectacular vertical light display, and the vegetation on the hill was discharging a multitude of burning embers into the night.

On Friday we had four fire tankers in attendance throughout the night, with a change of crew about midnight when the next four arrived.

The fire continued to burn on Saturday with more crews in attendance and that night we had another crew keeping watch until midnight. Here I would comment that all these firies are volunteers.

Guys,  you did a splendid job. Thank you all so much. We are still putting out a few hot spots, but it now under control.

Margaret Howes, Empire Vale

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