Firefighters save homes as Applethorpe evacuated
THE smoke is growing thicker along the New England Highway at Applethorpe, but local firefighters say crews are doing well in the nightmare conditions.
Manning the water tanker is Happy Valley man Geoff Davenport who said crews in this area are headed south along the highway to maintain the line between the Applethorpe State School and Elwood Rd.
Strong wind gusts are blowing lit embers and causing a number of isolated fires, but the water tankers said that so long as it keeps blowing west south-west, it should be under control within the next day or two.
Crews have been reporting major wins, according to Mr Davenport, who said he was astounded his property wasn't affected.
"The fire at Happy Valley came really close to some properties,” he said.
"When we drove up there we couldn't believe how many houses had been saved.
"It was black all the way up to it, then the houses are untouched.”
Tanker driver and first officer Roni Bau lives just 500 metres up the road, but he says he isn't scared for his property after he diligently prepared his gutters and removed litter.
Mr Bau said the fire was one of the bigger and "wilder” ones he'd seen in his 49 years of service, but was confident things would come under control shortly.
"Everyone is doing a terrific job for the size of the fire,” he said.
"We just need to keep our fingers crossed that mother nature doesn't throw a spanner into the works.”
If all goes to plan, Mr Bau predicts it'll just be a few days of "mopping up” before conditions return to normal.
At the time of publishing, the area of the New England Highway where the tankers were stationed was closed by police and Applethorpe was evacuated.