Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Firefighters, residents unite to battle blaze

A fast moving grass fire was stopped metres from a Deniliquin home on Saturday.

ZOE MCMAUGH December 31, 2013 4:55am

A grass fire burned 40ha and threatened a family home on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Susi Mulham.

Firefighters stopped a fast moving grass fire only five metres from Dion and Nicole Hearn’s Lloyds Lane home on Saturday afternoon.

The blaze had already destroyed a large workshop on the property before moving towards the home.

The shed housed a number of motorcycles, as well as automotive equipment.

The fire started in a paddock off Lloyds Lane just before 2pm and burned a total of 40ha along the lane Lawson Syphon Rd.

One firefighter was overcome by smoke during the ordeal and was transported to the Shepparton hospital.

Deniliquin NSW Fire and Rescue Captain Phil Dowling said the cause of the was so far ‘‘undetermined’’.

Mr Hearn said the family was celebrating their son Miller’s birthday at the home when the children noticed the fire almost 1km away.

‘‘One of the kids came and said there was a fire up near the road – it was just up the corner from the shed, about 800m away, so we rang 000 immediately,’’ he said.

‘‘It would have been another 20 minutes to half and hour before it got to the back of the shed because the fire went one way and then came back toward our place.

‘‘We were out there for about four hours using wet hessian bags trying to put of the fire, but it just gutted the shed.’’

Mr Hearn said the shed has not been used as a business for at least four years, but said all his equipment was still inside.

He said as soon as the fire encroached on his property, he encouraged his wife to take the children in to town so they were safe.

He said it was lucky he did because once the shed fire was under control, the flames rushed toward the house.

‘‘We were just lucky the firies were there,’’ he said.

‘‘They were concentrating on the shed and when we noticed the fire was moving toward the house, they dropped everything to save it.

‘‘It (the fire) came so close, so quick.

‘‘I couldn’t care less about losing the shed – I’m just happy no-one was seriously hurt while trying to save my shed and that the house is still standing.

‘‘Everyone was safe – everything else can be replaced.’’

Capt Dowling said it is very lucky the home was not lost in the fire.

The Hearns’ was not the only property affected, with the fire burning across a number of properties.

It started just before 2pm, with Capt Dowling saying firefighters were called about 1.40pm.

Police speculate the fire may have resulted from a motorbike being ridden through long grass a short time before the blaze was discovered.

Considering the nature of the fire and that it was a day of total fire ban, he said five NSW Fire and Rescue crews responded – three from Deniliquin, one from Finley and one from Jerilderie.

The Rural Fire Service was also called to assist, with four Deniliquin vehicles, two from Brassi and one from Hill Plain responding.

At the time the fire started, the mercury had soared to 37°C, wind speeds had reached 32km/h and there were gusts of up to 50km/h.

Capt Dowling said the conditions caused the fire to jump Lloyds Lane and the nearby channel.

He said it ‘‘jumped the road’’ and was heading toward the Deniliquin Council water treatment plant when firefighters arrived.

‘‘There were a couple of residents fighting the fire in one paddock, so we went and provided protection to the water treatment plant,’’ he said.

‘‘When the additional crews arrived, they went to the paddock to assist the residents.

‘‘On our way out there we could just see large clouds of smoke.

‘‘The fire was running, but we were able to get on top of it pretty quickly.

‘‘If it had not been for the co-operation of the NSW Fire and Rescue and the RFS, it could have been a lot worse.’’

RFS Superintendent Lindsay Lashbrook said one of his firefighters required medical treatment for smoke inhalation.

He was taken to hospital in Shepparton as a precaution, but said he was in good spirits when he spoke to him on Sunday.

Firefighters had to return to the Lloyds Lane fire late on Saturday night when stronger winds caused some ‘hot spots’ to reignite.

Mr and Mrs Hearn said they were overwhelmed by the community spirit shown during a time of adversity, and thanked everyone who helped save their home and other properties.

‘‘We just want to thank everybody who came out,’’ Mr Hearn said.

‘‘At one stage I turned around and 20 or 30 of my mates were there.

‘‘The firefighters did a fantastic job – I have to give them credit.’’

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