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Australia Waroona fire: 'Inferno was just metres from us'

  • 1-10-2016

Western Australia resident Chris Gable is a volunteer firefighter who has been battling the Waroona fire sweeping across towns near Perth. He told the BBC his account of the fire as it consumed the historic town of Yarloop on Thursday night.

I was fighting fires with the Myalup brigade from 18:00 Thursday night till 06:00 on Friday morning. We went to near Yarloop which is about 40km (25 miles) away. There were altogether 30 or 40 tankers and firefighting units.

We were putting out fires on farms, but the wind picked up instantly and these little spot fires turned into an inferno and headed west. It was so quick I couldn't believe it.

We saw the fire come down the hill and it was incredible. We were lucky that the wind changed at the right time and the fire went right around us. It passed just as we ran out of water. We did have an escape plan but that was a close call. At one point it was 30m from us.

We later went to the fire shed at Yarloop, but within five minutes we had to evacuate out of the town. The fire was moving very very fast. At 22:00 that's when the town really went up [in flames].

At Yarloop, we saw houses in front of us with the fire coming over the trees. People would just drive up to their houses, grab their last bits of possessions, and take off. Some guys were saying, "I need to save my house!" And we said that the fire was in front of us, and they agreed and took off.

We left town for a bit and when we came back the fire shed was gone, the volunteers' cars parked at the shed were on fire, and the pub and museum were all gone. Yarloop is a very historic timber mill town, and it was all gone.

The residents... they're shocked and in disbelief at what happened. Their own homes and businesses, they saw it all go up. But yet they've still got a sense of humour. The pub went up [in flames] and someone said, "Yeah but the police station is still standing!"

These people cheered themselves up with their own sense of humour. The community is very tight.

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2016 BBC

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