The Taralga Rural Bushfire Brigade was alive with activity on Monday morning.
All hands were on deck to fight the Long Gully Road blaze, some 8km northeast of the town.
The brigade headquarters were set up as a staging post for emergency services. Over the road, helicopters re-fuelled from large tankers and flew off to the fire ground.
The SES was on hand, running food out to hungry crews, while the Salvation Army set up a food van in town for RFS volunteers coming and going.
Amid all the busyness, young Abbie Heals had something to do. She had travelled with her mother, Emily, from Goulburn to hand over a special delivery.
It was a bag of lollies for the ‘firies,’ marked ‘With Love from Abbie.’
As it happened, they were Taralga RFS senior deputy captain Brad Sheridan’s favourite.
For him, it was just a reflection of the overwhelming community generosity. Food and drink donations have also been flooding in to the staging post for distribution. Tonnes of food and “two tonnes of coke” have also arrived at the Tangled Vine cafe just up the road to be packed up for crews.
In addition, people have donated medical supplies, including drops for fire affected eyes.
By Monday morning, the blaze had grown to 1800 hectares, thanks to erratic overnight conditions, RFS Commander and Deputy Group 10 captain, Andrew Nixon said.
“A strong southerly came in last night and took it north,” he said.
“We used aircraft but the fire took off and we lost it. Today’s a different story. The wind is blowing from different directions and we have to deal with what we’ve got but we do have excellent resources coming in and a lot of food and donations, which is really good.”
Some 15 properties were under threat on Monday morning but RFS crews and helicopters were quickly on the scene. By afternoon, flare-ups continued on properties along Newfoundland Road, some in inaccessible areas.
Helicopters filling with up to 900 litres at a time from farm dams were buzzing overhead. Colin ‘Podge’ Connor, watching from the road, was in awe.
“It’s only them taking three to four minute turnarounds,” he said.
His property was not affected.
Mr Nixon said some older property owners or those with minimal resources had elected to leave. Others were staying to defend.
He said the remoteness of some of the “humpies and weekenders” had posed a challenge for crews.
“Access is difficult (at times) and it’s a risk to crews because tracks are just one way in and one way out,” he said.
“A crew was caught on Saturday night when their access was cut off. They were in a situation for a while but fortunately came out unscathed.”
There have been no stock losses so far.
At Bill Alders’ property, Inverness, off Newfoundland Road, a helicopter was busy overhead on Monday afternoon. Divall’s plant operator, Gary Collins was preparing his dozer to strengthen containment lines as flare-ups continued. It was one of four dozers on the fire ground.
Brother and sister Evan and Louise Scott travelled from Camden on Saturday morning to help their relative, Mr Alders, to defend his property.
Mr Scott was thankful for the RFS support on Monday.
But he was critical of the fact that when Mr Alders reported the fire on Friday night, along with a neighbour on Long Gully Road, water bombers weren’t brought in straight away.
“He told them to bring in two water bombers but they didn’t. Otherwise they would have got it out,” he said.
But the RFS has said the bombers could only fly in specific conditions and they could not have been deployed until Saturday.
Some 150 RFS volunteers have been working day and night on the blaze. At the time of writing, the blaze is intensifying and authorities expect it to grow in size.
The skies are once again alive with helicopters.
Former Taralga resident and Daily Telegraph cartoonist, Warren Brown, dropped into the town’s RFS brigade headquarters on Monday morning.
He was dropping off friends but came in to see if he could help. The now Middle Arm resident said he was in awe of volunteers’ work and Taralga’s experience had sparked him into signing up as a volunteer.
“You’re a mug if you don’t,” he said.
“I’m from Sydney and I hang off every word they say. We prepare (for fire) as much as we can.
“It’s really a sad thing what’s happened here but the amazing thing is how everyone bands together and the community spirit.”
Mr Brown said if former Prime Minister Tony Abbott could join the RFS, “surely a cartoonist could too.”