The greatest challenge firefighters face during drought
AS A firefighter in a drought- stricken country town, Warwick man Ian Macdonald watched helplessly as nine houses burned to the ground in a single month.
The water supply had run dry.
"I remember running down the road and putting the standpipe in the hydrant and ...” Mr Macdonald made the noise of air flowing through the hydrants.
"Nothing. The town didn't have a back-up plan.”
Mr Macdonald recalled those harrowing memories in his Central Queensland hometown during a meeting with the Southern Downs Regional Council, where he'd come "with a revolver in my pocket cocked and ready to go”.
The local business owner was determined to see a council contingency plan that would ensure his adopted home would never face the same fate.
"As a rural firefighter, you usually know where all the static water is and they're nearly all gone,” Mr Macdonald said.
"Those fellas need water and they need tankers.
"You arrive in your big red truck and everyone thinks everything is fine, but when there's no water in the hydrant, you're stuffed.”
SDRC's response left Mr Macdonald confident the council was investigating all sources of water, including the Condamine River, and would not abandon the cause once heavy rainfall arrived.
"These guys seem to have a great plan in place,” he said.
"They have multiple tankers full at all times, the contact system works very well, and if there's a grass fire you won't have to wait too long until a council tanker comes along.”
For Karara Rural Fire Brigade first commander Ian Clarke, the drought brings far greater concerns than water supply.
The dryness of the soil is retaining heat and causing fire to spread through the roots of dying trees.
"I have never seen this before,” Mr Clarke said.
"Underground it follows a dry root, pops up somewhere else, jumps the containment line and off it goes.
"We can go through and knock out the fire and then it can just reignite itself.”
Rural fire service personnel underwent training this weekend with Queensland Fire and Emergency, where they learned strategies for dealing with the difficult weather conditions.
"We discussed keeping the fires out, within the containment lines and putting in contingency plans,” Mr Clark said.
"We have really good support from council in regards to water machinery.
"I feel confident we won't run out of water.”