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the Breeze

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OUR ISLAND VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTERS ARE HEROES! There is no doubt about it, our Russell Island Volunteer Fire Fighters are HEROES! This is the opinion of the Friendly Bay Islander and every island resident (and the Premier of Queensland) for their efforts in extinguishing the majority of the blaze on Sunday August 6 that has brought horror to our islands and to Queensland. We now know that the blaze was responsible for the deaths of a father and his five sons. Wayne Godinet died in the blaze whilst trying to save his five sons Zac 11, Harry 10, twins Kyza and Koah 4, and Nicky 3. The fire has been classified as one of the worst of its kind in Queensland history for its intensity and the dreadful outcome. The shining lights that have emerged from this tragedy are the ordinary Russell Island Volunteer Fire Fighters who are members of the island branch of the Rural Fire Service They have been lauded from the top brass including the Fire Commissioner Gregory Leach, Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, and the Premier of Queensland, the Hon Annastacia Palaszczuk. In a visit to the fire station two days after the tragedy, the Premier visited the Russell Island fire team to thank them for their outstanding response, and promised a new fire shed in the process. We now know that the island brigade were on the scene in Todman Street just seven minutes after receiving the emergency call from island resident Kylie Purtell. The team was led by station First Officer Larry Hoffman and Second Officer Kevin Gillard. To say that what they found in front of them at 5 Todman Street at around 6.30 in the morning, was confronting, is an understatement. Kevin Gillard told The Friendly Bay Islander there was a massive amount of black smoke and the blaze at the heart of it was ‘intense’. “The first floor had already collapsed when we arrived and had pulled up on the opposite side of Todman Street. “The radiant heat was astronomical, a car had been totally destroyed, and the house next door was well and truly alight with the house at the rear that was definitely going to be burnt to the ground.” A neighbour pointed out where a fire hydrant was in the street, which was about 50 metres away. Even though they had plenty of hose to reach, they were unaware that a fire hydrant had been covered by grass in the front of the residence that was ablaze. The powerful moveable hose on the back of the island fire truck operates like a swivelling machine gun. It throws out an extraordinary amount of power and water. Not only were they able to reach the seat of the blaze, but the other two houses as well. The powerful fire-fighting guns pumped out 3500 litres per minute for the first 20 minutes, then reduced to 2800 litres per minute for the next 60 minutes, totalling an amazing 6300 litres. The brigade members recognised that both the Todman Street houses were doomed, but the house at the rear fronting Gunsynd Street was ‘saveable’; even though the back of it was well on fire. By cleverly concentrating on the rear building and the seat of the blaze, gradually the flames subsided. Other island crews entered the grounds of the other properties and were able to tackle smaller external outbreaks and identify and remove dangerous gas bottles away from the heat, to prevent explosion and further fires. By the time the mainland brigades from Redland Bay arrived by barge at about 8am, the main fire had been subdued. So complete was the burn on the home of the disaster at 5 Todman Street, just about everything that could burn, was totally gone and reduced to ashes. Steel uprights that held up the first story, were totally bent over and twisted. All that was seemingly left was twisted roofing iron. The mainland brigades had the specialist breathing equipment that allowed them to enter the two adjoining properties to put out smaller fires still burning in the rafters and in other hidden places. (Rural fire brigades are not allowed to enter burning buildings, which is the subject of some consternation that leaves islands like ours somewhat vulnerable). The quick response and subsequent action was literally ‘spot on’. The Russell Island ‘firies’ are clearly well trained and it is great to know that all the island volunteer fire fighters are all trained to a similar level. The Russell Island Volunteer Fire Fighters are our HEROES! And so say all of us!

FRONT COVER CAPTION: L to R, Kevin Gillard, Ryan Roarty, Robert Doyle, Caine Ward, Matt Guy. The other Volunteer Fire Fighters at the scene were Larry Hoffman, Greg Silman, Kane Oakenfull, Maria Wiringi, Sean Pitts, Josh Mayne, Tony Stephenson.

• The Russel Island crew being ‘debriefed’ by Chief Officer Larry Hoffman after the tremendous blaze.



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