POLICE are investigating a fire that could have turned the Orana Juvenile Justice Centre and other West Dubbo properties to ash but for the speed and efficiency of a well-oiled firefighting machine.
The Orana team of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), its volunteers, and crews of Fire and Rescue NSW stepped up a gear to defeat the fast-moving fire that had the centre, a caravan park, Dubbo City Regional Airport, businesses and homes in its line of sight.
RFS aircraft returning from a blaze at Sappa Bulga late Wednesday afternoon had alerted the Orana Fire Control Centre to smoke plumes above West Dubbo.
In the blink of an eye the Orana team had deployed about 60 firefighters, 12 tankers, two helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft to battle the blaze, thought to have been ignited by the side of the Bunglegumbie Road.
Four units of Fire and Rescue NSW joined the fight against the fire moving in a west-south-westerly direction with 60km/h easterly winds fanning its flames.
Eschol bushfire brigade’s Brett McCarthy led the campaign that secured property behind the site of a former drive-in theatre before hitting the enemy hard from the ground and the air.
As the battle began, team manager Superintendent Lyndon Wieland requested RFS state operations to issue an emergency warning through landline telephones in the area affected by the fire.
A mobile phone tower on top of Bourke Hill was also utilised in the RFS bid to warn residents.
“ I had to be looking well ahead. The fire was moving at 5km/h,” said Superintendent Wieland, who factored into his decision the possibility that it could jump the Mitchell Highway and threaten businesses and the homes behind them.
Within the hour, 20.2 hectares of grassland was blackened but the fire was under control.
Superintendent Wieland was effusive yesterday about the leadership of Mr McCarthy and those who followed his orders in a dangerous situation.
“There was that much smoke that they weren’t sure of the head of the fire,” he said.
“They have done a fantastic job.”
Police have appealed for anyone who saw a maroon Holden Commodore station wagon in the area about the time of the fire to contact Dubbo Police Station or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.