Sterling job by firefighters to contain Stockinbingal fire

A fire caused by a lightning strike from Saturday’s intense storm burned through 181 hectares between Stockinbingal and Milvale before authorities could bring it under control.

The dramatic lightning show lit up the sky over the district, but offered little rain, which presented a challenge for firefighters in difficult conditions. 

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) has pinpointed the lightning strike near the shearing shed at Geraldra, the Grogan Road property of CW Mattiske & Co.

The fire headed quickly in a north-westerly direction fuelled by a mix of cropping and pasture country. It also burnt along the heavily timbered Bland Creek. 

RFS South West Slopes Zone District co-ordinator Tom McDevitt applauded the effort of volunteers who had the fire contained within two hours of the first tanker arriving on scene. 

In total, 24 fire trucks responded to the blaze with the RFS knowing if was not contained quickly in the dangerous weather conditions, it could easily get away from firefighters.

Once the fire was contained, the RFS used thermal imaging cameras to detect trees which were alight inside or underground so machinery or water could be used to deal with these trees. 

Mr McDevitt said the cameras were invaluable; while a tree may be cool to touch, it can be upwards of 400 degrees inside. 

Given the time of the evening the fire started, no aircraft were used. 

Hot and windy conditions, coupled with the thunderstorm activities, had the RFS on high alert heading into the weekend. 

Fire danger is rated each day and Mr McDevitt explained that when conditions combine to exceed a level of 50, a preemptive section 44, like a State of Emergency, is called. This sees staff at the South West Slopes Zone headquarters, based in Harden, speak to all brigade captains to ascertain the availability of volunteers.

They also speak to their heavy plant contractors to ensure excavators etc are available when necessary. 

Catering volunteers are put on standby should they be required during an extended emergency such as that which unfolded on Saturday night. 

“We make sure we have contacted everyone we need to so we are as organised as we can be in the event of a fire,” Mr McDevitt said, adding this process is something which has taken place about a dozen times this summer. 

A mild start to this week has firefighters in the district able to relax a little, however, by Thursday and Friday, when the temperature is forecast to peak at 36 degrees on both days, they will once again be on alert.