Australia — RESIDENTS and local fire brigade volunteers joined forces to beat back a blaze threatening to engulf homes on Muralag (Prince of Wales Island) recently. And the hot and hard work certainly put the recently re-established fire brigade on the island to the test.
The fire, which started at around 3pm on Sunday, August 14, spread rapidly in the prevailing 14-knot south-easterly winds. Gusts of up to 25 knots saw flames leaping high into the eucalyptus trees backing onto the beach communities.
The fire came close to houses on Muralag Beach and Collis Beach, lighting up the sky as it burned through the night on Sunday and Monday, August 14 and 15.
Speaking to the Torres News on Tuesday, August 16, Prince of Wales Island Rural Fire Brigade secretary Frances Mills said three trained fire officers had fought the blaze at Collis Beach with equipment borrowed from Queensland Fire and Rescue on Thursday Island.
“We monitored the firefront at Collis Beach on Monday, to prevent it jumping the dirt tracks,” Ms Mills said.
“Three residents had been trying to keep it down and stop it, but it kept flaring up.
“Then last night it was coming down the hill to the front community at Muralag Beach. Brigade members and residents got together and kept everything under control.
“Everyone did a really good job, and the fire has now gone inland.”
While the blaze was mainly a grass fire, some eucalyptus trees had also gone up in smoke, she said.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Thursday Island officer Brett Jones confirmed they had lent spray backpacks, rakehoes and beaters to the Muralag brigade.
Ms Mills said while the POW Rural Fire Brigade had their own protective gear, including 13 uniforms, they were appreciative of the help from TI.
“We had been planning to do some training in two weeks time, but the fire came earlier than we expected,” Ms Mills said.
She said the Torres Shire Council had recently overseen the purchase of a firefighting vehicle for Muralag, with funding the brigade received from the Torres Strait Regional Authority.
“Queensland Fire and Rescue on Thursday Island gave us the slip-on unit on the back, after they purchased a new one,” she said.
The POW rural brigade was re-established in 2009, and is currently looking for new volunteers.
Ms Mills said she would recommend Prince of Wales Island residents join their local fire brigade.
“The residents at Collis Beach are looking at joining,” she said.
The next intake and training session for the POW Island Rural Fire Brigade will be late August or early September.
Those interested in joining can contact Frances Mills on 4069 1418 or 0448 851 641.
“Anyone who wants to join can contact me, and I will bring the forms to training. You just need to bring some photo ID,” she said.