Australian firefighters released a terrifying video showing just how dangerous the bushfires raging across the country can become in mere minutes, spurred by high winds and extremely dry conditions.
The Dunmore Rural Fire Brigade, part of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, posted a 3½-minute video taken on Jan. 4 showing firefighters working to protect a property from nearby flames.
However, in just seconds the wind suddenly shifts, darkening the sky as some of the firefighters race to pack up their supplies and leave. A moment-by-moment account of the video reads like something from an apocalypse movie:
18:59.14 Crew has set up for property protection and receiving supplies from other units. You will notice there is no current wind in the area.
18:59:24 Southerly wind begins to hit the area.
19:00.05 Crew brace for property protection, which is out of view on the left side of our truck.
19:00.10 Day turns to night.
19:00.25 Ember attack commences.
19:00.40 Southerly wind hits at 100kph.
19:01.00 Extreme ember attack, spot fires and overrun.
“This goes to show what happens in just over 3 minutes,” the fire brigade wrote Wednesday. “The crew continues for another 9 minutes on the ground bringing a massive positive outcome, with a complete safe crew, protected truck and property saved.”
The video was shot on a dash-cam inside a firetruck that stayed to battle the flames after the other vehicles drove to safety. Dunmore brigade captain Greg Hardy told the Illawarra Mercury that in his 25-year career he had “never been in that situation.”
“I hope to never see anything like it again,” he said, noting that even as the firestorm rolled over the truck, “everyone felt safe.” He added: “I had faith in them and I knew we would get through it.”
Like many fire brigades across Australia, the Dunmore group is made up largely of volunteers on call throughout the year. There are more than 76,000 volunteer firefighters in New South Wales and nearly 55,000 in the state of Victoria who help bolster a smaller group of full-time fire and support staff across the regions.
They have been battling a string of devastating fires for months, however, risking their lives as the blazes have burned more than 25 million acres. The country has seen one of the worst early fire seasons in history, which has been exacerbated by climate change and a period of hot, dry weather (the country said earlier this year that 2019 was the hottest, driest year in recorded history). Climate change does not cause bushfires, but it can make them worse.
At least 33 people have been killed by the fires since September, and more than 2,500 homes have been destroyed. Scientists also estimate more than 1 billion animals may have perished in the flames.
The RFS said there were still 58 bush and grass fires still burning across New South Wales on Thursday, including 20 that have yet to be contained. The agency warned that the coming days may once again bring hot, dry and windy conditions.
But officials also shared some good news this week. Firefighters who have spent more than two months battling the Green Wattle Creek bushfire, about 55 miles west of Sydney, said they had finally contained the blaze that has scorched more than 680,000 acres.
“This fire started on the 27th Nov 2019, and has had tragic devastating impacts, but it is a huge achievement by so many to reach containment tonight,” the RFS said on Twitter.
The Dunmore brigade said the video is a reminder to those in fire-prone areas to have an evacuation plan in place and to leave when authorities tell them to.
“People are reminded to adhere to the warnings when given from the appropriate services as this is not a pleasant place to be when a fire impacts at any time, especially at short notice,” the brigade wrote. “Ensure your Bushfire Plan is in place.”
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