2 December 2019

"We can't stop this fire": Coast community plans for worst

| Elise Searson
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Long Beach Rural Fire Brigade

Community members gather at the Long Beach Rural Fire Brigade. Photos: Elise Searson.

It was an anxious time at the Long Beach Rural Fire Brigade on Monday morning (2 December) as residents of northern Eurobodalla villages were told to prepare for the approaching Currowan fire.

Rural Fire Service Deputy Incident Controller Ken Hall was blunt. “We can’t stop this fire. It is so dry out in the bush, it will keep jumping over our control lines,” Mr Hall said.

The Deputy incident Controller of the fire Ken Hall

The Deputy Incident Controller of the fire Ken Hall.

“Our problem is, if we have a fire that kicks off out of the big one, it might come a bit further south and that will put more pressure on North Durras. I’m 70 to 80 per cent sure South Durras is safe at this point under these conditions.

“At Long Beach, this fire is a couple of days away from us, the winds are westerly which will take the fire north, that gives us some help, leaving us not so vulnerable. It also gives us some days to prepare.”

Christine Beadman and Bec Lester

Surfside residents Christine Beadman and Bec Lester.

Early Childhood Director at Batemans Bay Pre School Bec Lester attended on behalf of her students families, to pass on the advice.

“They can’t stop it, it’s very scary, it won’t stop until we get rain,” Bec said.

Like many other residents, Bec and her mother Christine have a plan. This isn’t their first fire. They lived through the 2003 Canberra fires which they say were exactly like the Currowan fire – described as not too threatening in the few days leading up, until, “all of a sudden, in the middle of the day the sky turned black. We don’t want to be in Surfside when that happens”.

“When it gets to Long Beach we’re leaving with our pets, personal stuff and Esky that is ready to go,” she said.

Christie and Mark Summers

Long Beach residents, Christie and Mark Summers.

Mark Summers was quick to put his hand up to help the firefighters. Having fought in the Victorian fires, the feeling of panic is all too familiar.

“My wife owns Christie Coffee and we want to supply the fire brigade with as much coffee, Slurpees and food as they need,” he said. “We come from regional NSW where everyone looks after each other, this is just what you do.”

Christie’s plan is as soon as the fire is 5km away, she and Mark will stay while she sends her two children and pets into town. “Even though we rent, our home is everything to us; we have to stay and fight to keep it,” she said.

Road closure heading south on Princes Highway at Longbeach turn off

Road closure heading south on Princes Highway at Long Beach turn-off.

Like most coastal villages, Long Beach and Maloneys Beach are ‘one road out’ villages, so if everyone decides to leave in a panic at the last minute it could be catastrophic.

“The last place you want to be is in a car trying to drive out of fire,” Deputy Incident Controller Ken Hall said.

“If you leave it too late and you’re stuck at your house, make sure your house is right. If you don’t feel safe, leave now.”

Check the NSW Rural Fire Service website for updates and advice on preparing for fire.

Original Article published by Elise Searson on About Regional.

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