From left: John Welke, Inspector, Area Director for Rural Fire Service Darling Downs. Brett McIlwaine, Air Attack Supervisor. Matthew Finch, First Officer, Bowenville Rural Fire Brigade, Murray Wise, Bowenville grain grower. The men are keen to warn farmers about the fire threat as summer heats up.
From left: John Welke, Inspector, Area Director for Rural Fire Service Darling Downs. Brett McIlwaine, Air Attack Supervisor. Matthew Finch, First Officer, Bowenville Rural Fire Brigade, Murray Wise, Bowenville grain grower. The men are keen to warn farmers about the fire threat as summer heats up.

Water bombers primed as fire threatens first good crop in three years

STRONG winds and dry grass whipped up a fire in Murray Wise’s barley paddock that was too hot for ground crews to control.

The October 12 fire moved fast and threatened to spread to his neighbour’s farm.

Thanks to a revised Rural Fire Service strategy, water bombers were primed and waiting at the Toowoomba Aerodrome.

Within minutes they were above the Bowenville fire, dousing its front and western flanks, cooling it so the ground crews and volunteers could contain it.

John Welke, Inspector, Area Director for Rural Fire Service Darling Downs.
John Welke, Inspector, Area Director for Rural Fire Service Darling Downs.

The fire sparked from a broken grain header blade and, with so many farmers harvesting, Rural Fire Service Darling Downs Area Director John Welke said the threat was high for a similar fire to take hold elsewhere.

He called on farmers to take precautions.

“Fires can start at any time during these harvest operations,” he said.

“Ensure that your machinery is cleaned down at the start of every harvest shift and have sufficient firefighting resources and water available and close by.

“The initial response is everything and that starts with the first person who notices the fire.”

The RFS air wing based at the Toowoomba Aerodrome is staffed around the clock, with water bombers ready to go at the first sign of smoke.

Insp Welke said the bombers were integral for slowing the grass and crop fires that are forecast to dominate the 2020-21 summer.

“We don’t want any more grain fires in the season, so that our farmers can have a really good return on their investment.”

Originally published as Water bombers primed as fire threatens first good crop in three years