Forestry Corporation crews spend Christmas on the fire front

More than 30 Forestry Corporation of NSW firefighters from Walcha, Bathurst, Grafton, Casino and Coffs Harbour spent Christmas on the fire front tackling two fires in State forests near Whiporie, north of Grafton.

Silviculture and Fire Supervisor Warren Chawner said the Forestry Corporation crews managing fires over the festive season included seven firefighters from Walcha, six from Bathurst, six from Coffs Harbour, eight from Grafton and four from Casino.

“Crews were initially dispatched to manage a fire that took hold in young pine plantations in Whiporie State Forest in difficult weather conditions just prior to Christmas. As we were bringing that fire under control late on Christmas day, we noticed smoke coming from a second fire that had broken out a few kilometres down the road in Camira State Forest sparked by a burnt-out vehicle,” Mr Chawner said.

“Fortunately, we were able to immediately move firefighters and machinery to fight the second fire. With the hot and dry weather we had on Christmas Day, it could have easily been a lot worse if that fire had not been detected and managed quickly.”

General Manager Softwood Plantations Division, Ian Brown, praised the Forestry Corporation crews and contractors for their efforts over the Christmas period and thanked the Rural Fire Service volunteers and the Whiporie community for their support.

“It was a hot and difficult Christmas for our staff on the fire front and they are incredibly grateful for the support they received from the community, from the woman who stopped to deliver cool drinks to our firefighters to the managers of the general store who gave our crews space to store equipment and machinery and the local RFS volunteers who lent a hand,” Mr Brown said.

“The community’s support helped keep our firefighters’ spirits high despite the difficulties of tough weather conditions and spending the holiday period away from their families.

“One of our own firefighters Dave Olive, who lives locally, personified this local community spirit by returning home on Christmas Day after a tough day of firefighting to rustle up a Christmas barbecue for the forestry crews.”

Mr Brown said the two fires burnt a total of 1,577 hectares of State forest, including around 780 hectares of young pine plantations that will need to be replanted with new pine seedlings.

“Forestry Corporation committed significant resources to fighting these fires and our crews did an admirable job bringing them under control in hot and difficult weather conditions,” Mr Brown said.

“Given the hot and dry conditions, these fires could very well have been much worse and the efforts of our firefighters not only protected the surrounding communities but also significantly limited the damage done to these important timber assets.”

The response to the Whiporie fire was coordinated by Forestry Corporation with assistance from the Rural Fire Service as part of the State's coordinated firefighting effort.

Media contact: Elizabeth Fowler 9407 4265/ 0408 799 903