Surviving bushfire ‘like a lottery win’

Surviving bushfire ‘like a lottery win’

18 December 2009

published by

Australia —

Craig Lester compares it to winning the lottery.

A bushfire came within metres of burning down his home on Sydney’s outskirts, passing by in just five minutes.

But after thinking “that was the end”, he and his son Aidan were able to walk away in one piece, and with their house intact.

Mr Lester’s Londonderry house was one of a number of properties threatened by fire on Thursday afternoon, with 40 degree temperatures and strong winds fanning the blaze.

The fast moving fire front, with flames burning to a height of nine metres, was only 10 metres from the back of Mr Lester’s single-storey brick home.

All that saved the Tadmore Road property from destruction was a decent-sized firebreak, and firefighters armed with everything from a water tanker to helicopters.

“At one stage I got very scared when the (fire) front came through the back here, because the fire was running so quick across the grass,” Mr Lester said on Friday.

“The (flames in the) trees were peaking at a high of about 30 feet (nine metres) and there was a big wall of flames coming through at the back, so it got very hairy at one stage.

“It was like you’d just won lotto, the house is still standing, we’re alive.

“Without (the firefighters) I probably would have lost this house.”

On Friday, firefighters were mopping up the fire which destroyed sheds and damaged other property in the Londonderry area, with heavy rains in the Sydney region providing much needed respite.

Crews were still tackling a number of fires burning in the south of the state, which razed 13 homes on Thursday.

However, milder conditions had allowed firefighters to get on top of some blazes, including one at Gerogery, near Albury, which has burnt out 7000 hectares of bushland.

Fires at Michelago, near Canberra, and at Tooma, southwest of Tumbarumba, were still burning out of control on Friday afternoon, but there was no threat to property, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) said.

A still stunned Mr Lester admitted taking the idea of evacuation “a little too easy”, despite being urged by his 19-year-old son Aidan to abandon their home of eight years.

Thursday’s close call had not put him off living in the semi-rural area on Sydney’s northwestern fringe, he said.

“I love living here. It’s peaceful and quiet,” Mr Lester said.

“It’s probably one of the prices you pay being near the bush. Eventually one day you’ll get a fire that comes through, and yesterday was that day.”

RFS spokesman Antony Clark said firefighters would take advantage of the milder weather across the state, before temperatures climbed again next week.

“Next week there is the potential for some warmer weather, but it is just too early to say how widespread that is going to be, and what the effect will be,” he said.

“That’s why we’re working on getting on top of all these fires as quickly as possible, and fully containing them, and putting them out.”

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