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Firefighters Save Village Despite Running Out Of Water After Bushfires Surround It From Three Sides

by : Julia Banim on : 23 Dec 2019 15:25
Australia bushfiresAustralia bushfiresShutterstock

A small town in the southern highlands of New South Wales has been left devastated by multiple wildfires after firefighters ran out of water.

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Balmoral – a town of approximately 400 people – was left decimated by two catastrophic blazes last week; first on Thursday, December 19, and then again on Saturday, December 21.

As of yet, residents have been unable to return to see if any of their belongings could be salvaged because of the ongoing fire danger.

You can find out more about this story in the following clip:

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New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said ‘there isn’t much left’ of Balmoral, a small rural community located around 120 kilometres south-west of Sydney.

As reported by ABC News, Berejiklian said:

We have received bad news. There isn’t much left [in Balmoral]. Even if people have lost their properties, they still want to go back to see what’s left and if there is anything they can salvage.

We know that’s part of the recovery. We want people to have access to their land, to their property, as soon as they can, but it has to be safe.

The extent of the fire damage has yet to be confirmed, with an early assessment from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service stating around 20 structures in Balmoral have been destroyed.

Speaking with ABC Radio, Balmoral Rural Fire Brigade captain Brendon O’Connor explained how Balmoral runs on limited tank water, meaning crews ran into difficulties once their supply ran dry.

Fire crews had been trying to tackle two separate blazes using tanks filled up with water. However – due to the calamitous scale of the fire – the tanks were quickly drained.

O’Connor said:

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It was terrible. We had eight fire appliances dealing with the fire storm and no water left. The tanks and town had been drained. We had to wait for another tank to make it in and restock us.

According to The Guardian, O’Connor has stated 18 houses – over 10% of Balmoral houses – have been lost, as well as 90% of the surrounding bush.

Opening up about how crews had battled the fires, O’Connor described how flames had blazed 200m above the treetops:

Everything that was already burning was burning even more, everywhere you looked was burning,

It’s a miracle. The firefighters that were here […], not only were they fighting for their own lives, they were fighting for this community.

O’Connor continued:

We’re on tank water here. We were desperately trying to get more water into us, desperately calling for more to come in. A member from another brigade spoke to his boss about getting another truck into us really quick. That company saved a lot of homes.

Australia BushfiresAustralia BushfiresShutterstock

Haunting images from the town show scorched trees and decimated houses. However, firefighters have challenged the assertion that Balmoral has been ‘wiped off the map’, a claim which has been reported by various media sources.

Speaking with Australian radio station 2GB 873AM, a firefighter named Greg teared up as he disputed the notion that Balmoral is ‘almost gone’:

Balmoral has not been wiped off the map. It is not almost gone. It is all still there.

The suggestion that we failed in defending that village… I don’t know how the other guys take that, but me personally, I’m quite offended at the suggestion that we lost that village because we didn’t. I had mates hospitalised.

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Our thoughts are with the affected people of New South Wales at this difficult time.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, Australia, Australian Bushfires, Australian Town, Balmoral, Bushfires, Fire, Firefighters, New South Wales

Credits

ABC News and 2 others
  1. ABC News

    NSW bushfire ravages town of Balmoral during devastating day of blazes

  2. 2GB

    Devastated firefighter tears up at suggestions they ‘failed’ to save town

  3. The Guardian

    Relief and anger in Balmoral, the bushfire village that ran out of water