MORE than 114,000ha was burnt out during the Myall Creek bushfires in NSW.
The blazes are now under control – and that’s thanks to countless firefighters, from NSW and from around the country.
Including Phil Masters, Andrew Heriot and Cam Wallace from Moama NSW Fire and Rescue.
They were among 16 members from different stations within two regions who became part of Strike Team Zulu.
“It was a good opportunity to help the community away from home,” said Phil, who has been involved in 12 strike teams over many years.
“When we heard about the fires up north, we said ‘what can we do’?”
Based out of Casino, the team was deployed for seven days and spent more than 16 hours a day protecting houses, businesses and communities from the fires at Whiporie and New Italy.
They spent five days protecting the township of Whiporie, including the general store, hall, surrounding houses, DirtGirlWorld and several farms, as well as properties across the New Italy area.
On November 22 at 5.11pm, fires ripped through the Whiporie area and Zulu was put to work as the fire front closed in on the community.
“When the big fire front came through, it was 30 feet high in the tops of the trees and going at pace and drawing in air so it was fuelling itself,” Phil said.
“It was quite scary. Those are moments you don’t ever get used to.
“The fires were so unpredictable so you didn’t know what they were going to do.
But that’s where your training comes into it.
“These fires have been going for months because the fuel loads are so big, everything is so dry and there is no water.
“It’s just so barren and the cattle are skin and bone.”
While Cam has been involved in several strike teams over the past five years, every experience has been different.
“The power of fire was pretty eye-opening,” he said.
“Driving through it, you could see the intense heat coming off everything.”
Helping out was just “part of the job” Cam said.
“It was a great opportunity and learning experience about working in different bushland and fire behaviour,” he said.
“Everywhere we went we were greeted with cheers. It was pretty humbling.”
Andrew said it was hard to put into words what he had seen.
“Being in a fire zone and seeing the devastation, well that’s people’s lives and their livelihoods,” he said.
“But it was a good feeling to be able to save the town of Whiporie and DirtGirlWorld.” Phil also praised his fellow Fire and Rescue members.
“They did an outstanding job along with the many other strike teams out there from all different agencies that worked alongside us,” he said.
“These agencies have been working with strike teams for months to contain over 100 fires in NSW alone.”