Fire on the home front

17th Dec 2019

On the afternoon of Thursday, November 7th a fire began on a property near the Single National Park and, with a ferocious westerly wind, quickly spread threatening properties including the home of the Rice family at ‘Wyoming’. The fire spread quickly towards Wandsworth, sending embers as far as Ben Lomond. This is a recollection by Sue Rice of the fire which threatened her home.
Returning from a friend’s funeral in Inverell I could see a huge ballooning cloud in a clear blue sky as I neared Tingha. Cloud? Smoke? I put my foot down with a heavy heart. There in the front paddock of ‘Wyoming’ was the first of many RFS trucks, lights flashing.
RFS Volunteer Paul Jarrett greeted me, “We are here to look after ‘Wyoming’, go and have a cup of tea!” Oh, what calming, caring words I thought. But when I enquired in more detail, “Maybe ‘Wyoming’, straight for ‘Karaola’,” shock and uncertainty hit me. I immediately rang my sons in Armidale – Nicholas and his son Sam, Matthew with his water tank, pump and sprays, and Paddy all came as quickly as possible.
The big problem was that all the dams were empty except the front island dam, and that was only shallow water pumped from a small bore for the few cattle left.
The fire quickly spread up Guyra Rd along the travelling stock route, took over the big hill opposite ‘Wyoming’ in front and around, and later into the ‘Wyoming’ waterfalls. Ryan Schmidt from ‘Woombi’ suggested the helicopter pilots get water out of the big ‘Woombi’ dam for their huge buckets, which was a life saver. How very wonderful are the chopper guys with their buckets!
My boys worked with the RFS crews all day and through the night inside the Wyoming front boundary up the big hill opposite and along Guyra Rd. As darkness fell it truly became a Sydney light show with the very fiery atmosphere around and the blue and red flashing RFS trucks driving up and down the road.
In the homestead the power was off for three days. Mathew’s wife Kylie purchased pizzas from Armidale and arrived after midnight, driving the long way round due to road closures, while Nick’s wife Yvonne kept in touch with the wind changes on her mobile providing critical information.
But words cannot express enough our gratitude and admiration for the RFS crews and volunteers who are amazing, facing danger again and again to preserve our lives, homes and buildings – Guyra, Tenterden, from wherever - you are remarkable. May god bless each of you abundantly. Steven Simpson the bulldozer driver put in two firebreaks the first one down the rugged terrain in the middle of Wyoming down to Querra Creek with its now dry creek bed – an amazing feat.
Paul Jarrett said to us ‘Mrs Rice the homestead is still here – you must have a superior authority looking after you.” Yes, I am here. ‘Wyoming’ – a place of prayer, pilgrimage and peace is still here and the fingerboard is still standing even though the fire burnt right around it.
Yes, we are still here by the grace of God and with the help of so many people. Thank you for the physical help and offers of support from neighbours, by phone and messages. My gratitude to CT Electric (Geoff & Anne Thrift, Bradley, Carson & Wayne) for their expertise in connecting the power and coordinating with Essential Energy for a new ‘FIR’ in the transformer box. Thank you for suggesting the need for a generator.
Did we have a Bush Fire Survival Plan? Two big green tanks kept full of water (pumped from above when necessary). One pump in the house for the western side of the house/garden and one pump in the rockwork for the eastern side – both with extended hoses. BUT no power for three days so no water. Yes, I had my car and Triton plus trailer ready at the back door with fuel for the quick take off if necessary and precious items ready if in need of evacuation.
Thank you again to the RFS, my family and Woombi Dam. Thank you particularly to my son James from Brisbane who came down and strained up all the fences the RFS cut to fight the fire and get the bulldozer through. James also mustered the cattle from the TSR. Thank you to Russell Fenton from Tingha who came to the rescue and helped as well.
The results and clean up after this fire are ongoing and will be for some time. Sadly, the ‘Wyoming Waterfalls’ have been badly affected – the gum trees and their roots have been burnt so the unsecured rocks have fallen to the bottom of the falls. It has been the most horrific, but most amazing experience of my life – one I do not wish to repeat.
On Friday November 8th when the fire was volatile and critical and the atmosphere frantic, I walked into each room of the homestead praying loudly “Jesus I trust in you, Jesus I really trust in you!” After this serenity came over me.
Thank you and my sincerest gratitude to the ‘wonderful Wyoming family’ members, friends and good folk who prayed for the safe protection of those involved in the Wandsworth fire and for ‘Wyoming’. I know now I had a miraculous answer to my prayer in crisis. God does hear the prayers of those who trust in Him. I am here and ‘Wyoming’ is here. God bless you all, you are always welcome at ‘Wyoming’.
Sue Rice

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