A matter of when

Hills dwellers have always been told another 1983 Ash Wednesday-style bushfire would happen in their area.
It was a matter of when, not if.
The ‘when’ happened on January 2 when a fire (cause yet to be verified) started in a place called Sampson Flat between One Tree Hill and Kersbrook that is close to vast tracts of scrub and forestry land.
While the fire was at its most voracious in the first 24-hours, this was a blaze that burnt for nearly a week, destroying 27 homes, threatening several towns and sweeping through more than 12,000ha of land before rain helped contain it.
Firefighters and residents suffered some injuries but no lives were lost, and that’s where this community and the State demonstrated how far they had come since Ash Wednesday.
A better educated community with better access to timely information made more informed choices about when to evacuate and if they should stay and defend.
In this fire there were no motorists who died in cars on roads because they fled at the very last minute.
This time around the CFS volunteers had the trucks, the equipment, the communication and management systems and the training it never had in 1983.
Firefighters who fought in Ash Wednesday and in Sampson Flat likened the contrast in resources and planning to the difference between “chalk and cheese”.
They also had the back-up of firefighting aircraft and the reconnaissance of surveillance planes.
Ground crews put out fires but there are plenty of residents who will attest that if it wasn’t for a strategically placed load of retardant, the fight to save their home would have been lost.
But that’s where the Sampson Flat Bushfire throws up another lesson.
This fire took off in the late afternoon and was at its most dangerous during the night, when no water bombers can fly.
The CFS was receiving multiple triple zero calls from desperate residents at hours when most of SA was sleeping.
The rest of the Hills should be conscious of that and make sure their bushfire action plans take into account that winds change and fire might be on their doorstep at inconvenient times.

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