It was Friday, 2nd January, when big plumes of smoke rose from the Adelaide Hills and were visible across the city. A bushfire had started just before 1.00pm at Sampson Flat, about 38km north-west of Adelaide in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges.
Strong winds and temperatures in the high 30’s made difficult conditions as fire-fighters raced to battle the blaze which was out of control. By Saturday afternoon it was declared a State Emergency with more than 13,000 hectares of land burnt within a 238km perimeter.
The Adelaide and Mount Barker Rapid Relief Team (RRT) were ready and waiting to move into action as soon as the emergency services required. They were approached Saturday afternoon by the police to help support the families of displaced persons who had been evacuated from their homes. The RRT set up fast at Woodside Oval and were soon serving the evacuees with a sausage sizzle and other refreshments. Some of these people had been evacuated during the night, or had been up fighting to try to save their houses and property, until it was too late and they were evacuated.
The team provided relief and refreshment to some 70 people that afternoon and offered any support required those in need of assistance. It was a heartbreaking sight to see an older man stumble over to the tent in a dazed state, with soot from head to toe, and briefly tell of how he had lost everything and only just escaped with his life. It was a privilege to be able to help in a small way with some food, a hot drink, and a cool face cloth to wash away the sweat and soot.
The RRT packed up for the night, and then Sunday morning was back at the oval ready to serve breakfast. The evacuees came in for refreshment after a rough night sleeping where they could, some in tents or cars. A team of exhausted and hungry fire fighters returning from a 12-hour night shift at the fire front also appreciated the hearty breakfast of quiche, sausages and tomato. During the afternoon on Sunday the Rapid Relief Team packed up, as the evacuees had been taken into shelters or were being looked after by family and friends.
By Monday a cooler change came in, bringing much needed rain and the bushfire was largely contained. Over 25 houses were damaged in the fire, which has been declared the worst in the area since the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983.
On behalf of the Rapid Relief Team and the community in the Adelaide hills the RRT Adelaide would like to express appreciation for the work that the Country Fire Service (CFS) do in times of emergency. Also appreciated are the interstate volunteer firefighting teams.