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