Fighting a bushfire, outback Australia style

At the end of August I heard about a bush fire that was threatening a life time of work at Kachana Station, a 77,500 hectare totally isolated property which is owned by good friends of mine. My brother was going out to fly the helicopter to transport volunteer fire fighters around the mountains and valleys surrounding the homestead so I went out as one of those volunteers.

The fire had been deliberately lit (as per usual) over a week previously. Volunteers had been coming and going but they were exhausted so it was good to be able to go out with another bloke to replace some of the exhausted men coming back to town.

To read more about the interesting work going on at Kachana Station you can read about it here: Kachana Station

We flew out in a fixed wing aircraft (no road access) with Chris, the owner, who along with only one other person has ever landed on the precarious airstrip situated deep in a valley. With another look at the fire from the air on our way in to land, Chris decided it was time to cut his losses and back burn to save what he could. The previous weeks hard yakka had taken its toll and it was a very hard decision for him to make. So instead of getting straight into the action our roles quickly changed. That first afternoon we could do nothing but watch my brother and Chris as they flew low over the rugged landscape dropping incendiaries in a formation to start the back burning process.

They ended up doing three trips due to various equipment malfunctions, one quite hilarious, but eventually it was done right on last light.

Kachana Station fighting bush firesThe back burning had done the job but some parts had not gone in the right direction and needed to be put out. Chris used a back pack air blower while I followed up the rear with a back pack water tank.

Here is a short video clip showing them taking off for the first run.

It was early to bed that night while the fire burnt up the mountain slopes and early to rise at 4am to get ready for a busy day. The day dawned very still and smokey.

Kachana Station fighting bush fires

One team was flown to one site while Chris and I went in another direction.

Kachana Station fighting bush fires

Kachana Station fighting bush fires

Here we are flying to our first position.

We clambered over all sorts of wild country and with 20kg on your back and temperatures reaching 40 degrees it was very hard work.

Kachana Station fighting bush fires

Kachana Station fighting bush fires

Thank fully every time I had to refill my back pack I did not have to walk very far to this tranquil location where I would drink a litre of water myself before trudging back up the mountain side.

Kachana Station fighting bush fires

I couldn’t believe it but by midday we all regrouped and were very satisfied with what we had achieved. If all went according to plan by the end of the day the small fires left burning would hopefully burn themselves out. That meant it was time to go heli fishing!

After a great lunch and a rest we cobbled together a little fishing equipment and quickly popped over to the Chamberlin River which still had some water left over from the previous wet season in isolated lagoons. Not being a fisherman I took a book and kept the chopper company while the others went off to try and catch dinner. Here is a pic of the almost dry river system that we landed at.

Chamberlin River Kachana Station

Immediately they had hooked a beauty but not quite we were after so after a bit of a tussle they managed to release it back into the water.

Catching a crocodile with a fishing line

While there was not much fishing success they did manage to land one decent sized Barramundi that we devoured that night for dinner over a few glasses of the delicious local brew, Kachana Gold.

Barramundi at Kachana Station

After a great dinner we all slept like logs. The next day after a quick flight to check that all the fires were out we headed back to Kununurra. To finish off my blog here are two photos from our flight home. One of the Dunham river and the other of the Kununurra Airport with Lake Kununurra in the foreground.

Dunham River

Kununurra Airport from a chopper over the Lake

3 responses to “Fighting a bushfire, outback Australia style

  1. Pingback: Fighting a bushfire, outback Australia style | Isaan Five O

  2. Fascinating ! “The fire had been deliberately lit (as per usual) over a week previously. ” who and why does this and what is the purpose of it ?…..So many fires in Australia just now…is a large proportion deliberate and if so who are they and do they ever catch them?
    thank goodness for the Helicopter !

    • Yes, a lot of people still believe that fire is part of nature and that the bush should be burn every year. Well it isn’t and it does tremendous damage. The land is so vast out here that bush fires are left to nearly always burn themselves out. They can easily take out bush that is 1,000,000 hectares in size and only a few dozen people would know about it. To fight this fire is highly unusual and only happened to save the land that Chris had already managed to keep fire out of for 20 years. That land is like a tropical paradise compared to the waste land all around it. The spring that I was filling up my water from has only recently started running again because of the work he has been doing.
      Fire are started every year on the surrounding properties by people who think it isn’t a big deal and do it to make it easier to get down to the river for a fish. 🙁

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