2013 was the hottest year on record for Eastern Australia.  Halfway through spring with little or no rain forecast in the near future, the region’s worst fears were realised. An Army exercise involving explosives accidently ignited bushland north of Lithgow, on the western side of the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. With high winds whipping flames into an inferno, power lines arced, spreading the fire.  Over 200 homes were razed to the ground.

Fires Approach the Ridge

As firefighting crews used all available resources at the huge Lithgow and Winmalee fires, Mt Victoria, (located at the top of the Blue Mountains, elevation of 1044m) had to fend for itself.   This small hamlet, surrounded by rugged cliffs and inaccessible valleys, consists of one pub, a train station, a few shops, one public school and three private schools, including the Plymouth Brethren MET Mt Victoria campus. Around 2pm, power went out in the village of 800 people.

Seven Houses Lost in One Street

Emergency evacuation plans were immediately implemented. Rapid Relief Team members responded quickly from Katoomba and Lithgow.  A number of their fire units and trained personnel set up pumps, hoses and striker units to deal with the rapidly approaching fire front and ember attack.

View From Mt Vic Campus

As Barker College (an elite Anglican Christian School) was in direct line of the fire, all RRT units moved to this area, wetting down buildings and dormitories and generally preparing the college for impact.  Other RRT personnel assisted distressed residents to evacuate from surrounding streets. Residents fled for their lives without taking anything with them, some sheltering in the arriving RRT fire trucks as their own cars caught fire.

Wetting down dormitory buildings.

Within hours, the raging fire, fanned by 90kph winds, had reached houses in nearby streets, leaving nine destroyed and many damaged. Mains water supply reduced to a dribble during the peak.  Police rescue vehicles and the local area Fire Chief arrived after the main front had passed and helped mop up using the RRT equipment. They were very relieved and thankful for the PBCC support, as these units were only resources available in this sector at the time! School buildings, neighbouring properties and residents in Mt Victoria were finally safe.

RRT equipment including Fire pumper and tanker truck RRT Members Assisting College Staff Fire Jumps Road into School Grounds. Members protecting outdoor training course from destruction.


Letter From Barker College_001

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