Fire teams lend a helping hand

Mathew Makeham was one of many Eurobodalla firefighters rushed far afield to help in last week’s crisis.

The Malua Bay man was part of a six-member crew sent on Thursday morning to the Bungonia National Park, where the Camp Oven Spur fire was raging in challenging terrain.

“It was burning uncontrolled in steep country and they needed ground crews to support air attack,” Mr Makeham said.

Armed with chainsaws, water backpacks, rake-hoes (McLeod tools) and axes, his National Parks and Wildlife Service team worked 12 to 14-hour shifts as the fire burned down a spur.

“It was very steep and hot,” he said.

“We were using dry fire fighting techniques, then calling helicopters to put out hot spots.

“It was burning over a spur on both sides of the ridge. We held it back and it is now contained.

“It was held under very strong conditions on Saturday.”

But by Saturday, Mr Makeham – a firefighter since 2007 - had been sent to the larger fire which began in Deans Gap but last week jumped the highway to threaten Sussex Inlet.

Mr Makeham was stationed a few kilometres west of the Princes Highway at Jerrawangala.

“We were putting in a containment line, doing a backburn to control the fire edge, west of the highway,” he said.

“We were mopping up, extinguishing all the hot spots around the edge of the fire.

“The blacking out is the work that most people don’t understand or see.

“After the fire has gone through, there is quite a significant amount of work to be done.

“The work on the fire line might continue for weeks to extinguish all hot spots.

“It is not just flame, it is anything that might still have heat, so the potential for sparks to reignite and jump containment lines on a hot day is then very low.”

Mr Makeham said his crew could be sent anywhere.

“We are working across agencies,” he said.

“We are supporting the Rural Fire Service and State Forests. We work together on large fires and over different land tenures.”

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