Bunker saved resident in Black Saturday bushfires

   Bunker saved resident in Black Saturday bushfires

1 September 2009

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia — The Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission has heard a homemade concrete bunker saved the life of a resident in St Andrews, on Black Saturday.

The royal commission watched resident Jim Baruta’s dramatic video that captured the moment the February 7 bushfires engulfed his property.

The video showed the approaching blue flames, and the roar of the fire and the wind.

Mr Baruta survived the fire by sheltering in his homemade concrete brick bunker at the rear of his house.

While waiting for the fire front to approach, he captured some dramatic footage.

“All the trees were just going up, the heat, everything was just bursting into flames in front of me,” he said.

“The fire was creeping along the ground, but then the main fire front came over the top.”

He began putting out grass fires on his property until the fire forced him to seek shelter in his bunker.

“The heat I didn’t notice that much, to me the heat meant nothing, I was just very light-headed and tired. I couldn’t understand why I was tired. I thought I’ve got to walk back into the front, and walk to the bunker without stumbling. It was about a 20-metre walk.”

He made it to the safety of his bunker and shut the door. The bunker quickly filled with smoke.

“Then I realised the oxygen was getting sucked out as the smoke poured in.”

He stayed in there for between five and ten minutes, and says during that time, he was not thinking very clearly.

However it saved his life, and says he would use the bunker again.

“When I built the bunker, I never thought I would use it. Everyone used to joke about it and I never thought I would actually get to use it,” he said.

In his area, a number of people died in the fires.

Mr Baruta says he saved the family home by constantly using buckets of water from the pool to douse fires around the house.

He says he noticed the water levels in both dams on his property had dropped by about a metre.

“The water just got sucked out of them,” he said.

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