Home Community Bullsbrook College evacuated as fire engulfs bushland

Bullsbrook College evacuated as fire engulfs bushland

Bullsbrook Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services Captain Brian Davis at the fire ground.

Just a week into the new school year and nearly 1000 students at Bullsbrook College were evacuated from their classrooms on Wednesday 7 February when a mulch fire rapidly spread and engulfed the 8 hectares of bushland adjacent to the school.

Bullsbrook Volunteer Fire and Emergency Service Captain Brian Davis received an initial notification from Department of Fire and Emergency Services communications that the fire, on the corner of Hurd and Chittering roads, was small and not posing much of a threat.

“By the time members got to the station and got the vehicles out, it had jumped the road,” explains Brain.

Volunteer brigades from the Swan and Chittering areas, as well as career fire fighters from Ellenbrook, Kiara, Welshpool and Midland quickly joined the Bullsbrook team at the fire ground to form a plan of action.

“You have got to come up with something pretty quick and it is quite dynamic,” explains Brian. “Safety is the number one thing, but at the same time, you’re constantly thinking, ‘What’s the best tactic? Where am I going to get water? How am I going to stop the fire?’”

“The plan here was obviously to protect the school. That was that was our priority, and there were three appliances already doing that, which was good.”

The fire also threatened homes in The Landing estate and Bullsbrook Family Medical Centre.

“I immediately requested more vehicles for Ballybofey Loop as fire was about to impact this road, and luckily the Need Water bulk water carriers was there, using water out of their truck, which was great. That really assisted.”

With fire progression slowed due to aerial support, the approximately 17 appliances on the ground worked on reducing the head fire. Brian explains, “We try and stay on the edges (flanks). The idea is you fight from the sides, and slowly pinch it in so that it becomes a smaller head fire. In this situation, it was fast moving – we got to the sides, but the head fire was going that fast we had to conduct what we call a direct attack on the head fire, where we are actually right at the front of the fire.”

Amazingly, Bullsbrook College was spared any property damage from the blaze.

Steve Watson, Director of Education, North Metropolitan Regional Education Office said, “I’d like to acknowledge and express gratitude to the firefighters and police for managing the incident and coordinating the immediate response that ensured the safety of all students and staff.

“Students and staff are to be commended for following their emergency procedures in a calm and cooperative manner.

“I’d also like to acknowledge the assistance and support of parents, many of whom picked up their children while the fire was threatening the community to get them home safely.”

Once the fire was down to a manageable level, there were two patches of unburnt land that loomed as threat to Ballybofey and Kimberley St residents. After following due process and receiving permission, Brian made the decision to burn those areas out. “It was a great tactic,” he said. “It burnt back on itself and stopped anything else happening – also a good opportunity to reduce the fuel load in this area for the future.”

Whether it is serendipity or just plain good planning, the Bullsbrook brigade had rehearsed nearly this exact situation occurring just two weeks ago. “As part of our training we ran the scenario that a fire came through, hit a mulch pile, then impacted the school,” said Brian, who also praised the staff, students, and parents for their actions during the emergency. “It was great cooperation from Bullsbrook College in activating their evacuation plan. They made sure everybody evacuated from the far side, and even the parents and guardians picking up their kids did a great job keeping out of our way.”

With a long fire season still ahead, Brian says, “Definitely have a think about your bushfire plan, and in it consider those other things that are outside the box, like a road closure. Have another plan to get in or out, and if you can’t get in, what’s your plan? What are you going to if you’re already out of the area and you need to get home?”

For more resources head to www.mybushfireplan.wa.gov.au.