“THANK God for the firies!”
That was Jerrawangala resident Brendan O’Dowd’s reaction on seeing his house which was saved from Tuesday night’s firestorm south of Sussex Inlet.
The O’Dowds had left their home, next to Martin’s Orchard on Tuesday morning, expecting a hot day but never thought they would be involved in middle of one of the worst fire emergencies to the hit the region in the last decade.
Mr O’Dowd had gone to work, while his wife Jo, with temperatures predicted to be in the 40s, packed up their three children and headed to the air-conditioned comfort of her mother’s home in Meroo Meadow.
Later that night the Deans Gap fire roared across the Princes Highway at Jerrawangala with the O’Dowds’ house right in its path.
A St Georges Basin RFS crew, which was battling the blaze at the nearby orchard, managed to get to the home and miraculously saved it from being destroyed.
When he finally got back into his property on Wednesday afternoon and saw his saved home for the first time Mr O’Dowd said his reaction was “Shit, that’s close.
“We were so lucky, the fire came so close,” he said.
“We are just so incredibly lucky; the firies are certainly heroes.”
Mr O’Dowd said the couple had listened to the radio and thought the fire would come through more in the Wandandian area.
“It wasn’t really clear where the fire would come through, we listened to the radio and checked out the RFS website and it wasn’t really that clear either,” he said.
“The St Georges Basin fire crew, with the help of others, as yet we don’t know who they are, saved us.
“We can’t thank them enough.”
The fire came within two metres at the rear of the couple’s home and about the same from the front.
Scorched earth surrounds the property while opposite across the highway is a black landscape.
Such was the heat of the blaze that hydrangeas at the back of the home wilted as flames licked just metres away.
Remarkably the only part of the property that suffered significant damage, apart from fences, was a corner pole in a work shed adjacent to the house.
“The firies noticed that it was on fire as well, it completely burnt out the corner pole, and by looking at the pole on the other side of the shed a similar occurrence happened back in 2001,” Mr O’Dowd said.
He said the noise of helicopters now buzzing overhead above their home on the way to other blazes were certainly welcome.
“We are pretty used to a fair bit of noise with the Princes Highway so close to the front of our home, but the helos overhead are loud but are certainly a welcome noise. You feel safer when they are around,” he said.