November was a very active start to the fire season with an unprecedented number of fires out of control and an emergency declared over most of the state. Many volunteer crews from The Hills took part in strike teams to the far north coast and then to the Gosper’s Mountain Fire in Wollemi National Park.

We saved many assets, and lost some, which is inevitable in such awful circumstances. In the left hand window of this building, the dark area of flame is known as a flashover, where the built-up gases from burning materials in the room ignite almost explosively, compared with the pale flame below.

You often hear volunteer firefighters described as brave. I’d like to say that we are not brave. We do what we are trained to do, and we do it in as safe a manner as we can. There is a fine line between brave and foolhardy. In our basic firefighter course, we are taught not to be a hero, because that’s foolhardy, and another firefighter may have to risk their life to save you. We may be community minded, or have joined up to be able to save our own homes. Some people do join for the challenge or excitement, but that’s not what the RFS wants. We need careful, hard-working, sensible volunteers!

In O’Hara’s Creek Road on Monday 18th November, there was an extraordinary incident as a consequence of the RFS app, Fires Near Me showing a fire at no 12. This was a highly unusual system error, unlikely to be repeated, but it resulted in a chaotic log jam of traffic, as local residents flocked to the road to check the fire situation. There was no fire, but if there had been, a fire tanker would have been unable to access the fire and residents would have been unable to evacuate. Please do not react in this way by driving towards a potential bushfire. If there is a fire in your area, and it requires you to exercise caution or watchfulness, you will receive an SMS on your mobile phone, informing you of the possible level of emergency. This SMS is generated by the RFS via the communications tower, to every mobile phone in the affected area.

If you are concerned, and want further info information, please ring the RFS bushfire General Enquiry line: 1800 679 737. Of course, if you see flame or a plume of smoke, ring 000. While current fires are blanketing Sydney in smoke haze, it’s difficult to ascertain the cause, and we would rather have false alarms than not. As always, the Middle Dural Captain, Len Best (0408 220 705) and Senior Deputy, Ken Middleton (0417 203 088), are happy to assist. If you have not already done so, we recommend that you download the free RFS app, Fires Near Me. It contains valuable information that will better prepare you, and also reassure you, in the coming months.