Bush Fires Plague Australia
Prolonged and excessively hot weather emphasized the bush fire season in Australia. The danger period was proclaimed from Nov. 16 to Nov. 26, forbidding the lighting of any open fires. Maximum penalty for so doing might be $1,000. Two men caught before Nov. 17 were fined $250 and $50, respectively, writes FIRE ENGINEERING’S Sydney correspondent Joseph Gunner.
In what is reported as the worst bush fires in Sydney’s history, 22 dwellings in the outer suburbs of the city were burned; a church, plaster factory and scores of poultry houses and garages also were destroyed. In addition, a timber yard was burned at St. Marys, and a railway line badly damaged at Mt. Kiring-Gai.
At the height of the trouble, Sydney radio stations interrupted their regular radio programs to broadcast appeals for volunteers to fight the fires. The night sky to the north, south and west of the big city reflected the glow of the fires. Road and railway traffic was interrupted by the spreading blazes. On the 15th, every available fireman was fighting bush fires in the metropolitan area. A special detail of nine men at fire headquarters was required to attend to the fire calls, which at one stage averaged six a minute.
When a bush fire blew up the powder magazine at Lambton colliery, south of Newcastle, a miner was killed. He was one of a team of more than 20 miners who were helping to get explosives out of the magazine before fire reached it. He was the last man to leave the magazine. When he was 10 yards away a 45 miles-an-hour wind swept the flames to the magazine. The explosion hurled him against a tree. Most of the other men, although 100 yards away, were lifted from their feet as they ran.
One man collapsed and died from heat and exertion in fighting the fires. Terrified families fled before the spreading flames. A fully-loaded “goods” train was driven through a 100-yard wall of fire to escape encirclement. Some of the fire apparatus caught fire but the fires were put out.
More than 750 workmen and firemen from 13 fire brigades, on the 15th, successfully fought to save the 5 million industrial area of St. Marys from the bush fires.