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‘Close to a nightmare’: Fire shows town vulnerable

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
**** DO NOT LIGHTEN*****
West Swan Bushfire Brigade Captain Bec Altham for story on increasing numbers of volunteer firefighters. Pic: Michael Wilson, WA News, 23rd October 2012..... Fairfax Online and Fin Review Out.
Camera Icon**** DO NOT LIGHTEN***** West Swan Bushfire Brigade Captain Bec Altham for story on increasing numbers of volunteer firefighters. Pic: Michael Wilson, WA News, 23rd October 2012..... Fairfax Online and Fin Review Out.

Denmark’s vulnerability to a major emergency has been highlighted as a bushfire raged within hundreds of metres of homes, coming close to the need for an evacuation of residents on Tuesday.

Up to 30 volunteer firefighters from the Shire of Denmark battled an unpredictable bushfire which began close to Castelli Estate near Mt Shadforth Road which quickly spread when it was fanned by strong northerly winds as temperatures reached close to 40C.

The Mt Shadforth blaze, one of four fires attended by Denmark crews on Tuesday fuelled by extreme weather conditions, was quickly upgraded to a watch-and- act level with flames 10m high.

Incident controller Graeme Thallon said fires at Hay east of the town, Springdale Estate and at Parryville had stretched resources.

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Mr Thallon said brigades on standby reacted quickly after receiving a triple-0 call from the winery but the strong northerly wind had sparked the Mt Shadforth blaze.

The blaze which threatened homes near Mt Shadforth Road, was eventually contained and downgraded to an advice level on Tuesday night.

Roads were reopened yesterday morning as the bushfire was given the all-clear after being extinguished within containment lines.

However, Mr Thallon said the bushfire showed how vulnerable the Denmark community was to a major emergency if an evacuation was required.

Construction on the $14.3 million Denmark East Development Precinct set to begin next year will include a new bridge across Denmark River, an alternative to the town’s entrance on South Coast Highway.

“Hopefully if there is anything positive from this fire is that there is a bit more focus on that,” Mr Thallon said.

“That second bridge, as far as emergency services is concerned, is a critical component of future plans.

“If there is a positive, it makes people more conscious of what can quite easily happen.”

Mr Thallon said the conditions firefighters faced on Tuesday were “close to the worst nightmare” and the Denmark volunteers were thankful of the support from the City of Albany volunteer brigades which assisted in fighting fires across the Shire.

“We were pretty stretched across the Shire, it was a testing day,” he said yesterday.

“We had prepared for the weather but you can only prepare as having people ready to respond but you can’t always predict what will happen

“It was within a couple of hundred metres of the Peace Street properties.

“We were very close if we had a significant fire jump over, we would have been looking at an evacuation.

“Fortunately, we were able to hold it.”

Firefighters are expected to monitor the Mt Shadforth area for the next few days.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

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