IN the dark of night in unfamiliar territory, the lives of nine firefighters were put at risk on Tuesday thanks to the “stupid decisions” of others.
The Central Mullion fire that started Tuesday afternoon raged through a pine plantation 14km north or Orange with dozens of firefighters battling to get it under control.
While the cause is under investigation by police, the area is a known for dumped vehicles, many of which are set alight.
Around 10.45pm on Tuesday crews were conducting a backburn on the southern edge of the fire when things turned bad.
“They experienced some erratic winds of up to 50km/h,” Canobolas Zone operations officer Brett Bowden said
“The actual fire begun behaving erratically and you had the fire crowning 20 to 30 feet above the top of the trees.”
Whipped up by strong winds, the southern containment lines broke and spot fires started in the adjoining eucalypt forest.
This left firefighters and dozer operators working alongside them trapped with fire bearing down on them from three sides.
“The southern party had nowhere to go,” Mr Bowden said.
“It was a fire that hit a bit of fuel and it hit the tree tops.”
The only option was to quickly clear an area of trees and shrubs with a dozer and wait it out.
“They sat in the middle of the cleared area,” Mr Bowden said.
“They were all calm about it and they were in radio contact the whole time.”
While there is always some danger for firefighters, Mr Bowden said the knowledge this fire may have started due to a car being set alight has made him livid.
“It’s just ridiculous obviously people just don’t think,” he said.
Despite the threat Mr Bowden said there was no panic and crews knew what they had to do.
“The number one thing is firefighter safety and if a bit more bush burns that’s OK,” he said.