Yorklea volunteer rural firefighters (from left) captain Jason Gilmore with deputy captains Andrew Fleming and Jason Underhill return from a backburning mission on Paddy Flat Road.
Yorklea volunteer rural firefighters (from left) captain Jason Gilmore with deputy captains Andrew Fleming and Jason Underhill return from a backburning mission on Paddy Flat Road. Jacklyn Wagner

Tabulam in thick of all the action

THE smoke haze was thick in the air at Tabulam News general store yesterday morning as residents and firefighters swapped fire updates and stocked up on fuel and supplies.

With multiple fires burning, their main concern was determining how fast the fires were moving and what roads were open.

With UHF running like FM radio and the Tabulam Rural Fire Service brigade just next door, it was the hotspot for emergency information and the phone was running hot.

Shop attendant Leonie Firkin was working the phones, the counter and the petrol bowsers, with one eye cocked to the north-west and her own home – 15 kilometres up Paddys Flat Road – and the other on the job at hand.

“The kids are safe at school in Bonalbo so I’m not too worried at this stage,” she said.

“It’s only ten minutes to home if things flare up. The fuel tanks on the pumps are full and we have plenty of water.

“I would do what I could to save the house, within reason, but the number one priority is safety.”

“I’ve got stuff ready to grab and run. If push came to shove I’d let the animals go, grab the important stuff and head to Bonalbo.”

Another resident stocking up on fuel and food was planning to evacuate should conditions deteriorate.

“I’m a kilometre into the bush 20km up Paddys Flat Road without water so I’m out of there if [the fire] comes this way. I’ve got everything I need loaded on a trailer.”

Firefighters were on top of the back burning in the Paddys Flat area yesterday afternoon.

The Yorklea brigade was headed in for lunch when The Northern Star caught up with them at Upper Tooloom.

Deputy captain Andrew Fleming said they’d been busy the past weeks fighting fires as far away as Narrabri.

He took a moment to thank his boss, Andrew Hurford.

“He pays me to come out here and do this,” he said.

“He’s a great guy, very community minded. I couldn’t do this otherwise” he said.

Captain Jason Gilmore said he wasn’t so lucky being self-employed. “I’d better thank the missus then,” he said.



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