Birdwood bushfire emergency a timely reminder fire threat remains

CFS crews and volunteers continued to monitor the fire through Monday night and Tuesday. Photo: Carla Wiese-Smith
CFS crews and volunteers continued to monitor the fire through Monday night and Tuesday. Photo: Carla Wiese-Smith

A bushfire which posed an immediate threat to the town of Birdwood this week has highlighted the extended dry season across SA.

Just after 1.30pm on Monday, CFS crews were called to a blaze near Rathjen and Warren Roads, Birdwood, which was burning out of control and moving in a south, south-westerly direction towards the town.

An emergency warning was issued not long after advising residents to evacuate.

CFS senior media and communications officer Alison Martin said the fire – which was caused by a pump – was contained at about 4.45pm, after about 30 hectares had been burnt.

“It was in scrub and quite close to houses, thankfully CFS were able to contain it.”

About 23 appliances were in use at the height of the fire, and Ms Martin said four aircraft had delivered 28 drops.

On Tuesday, five appliances continued to monitor the fire.

Ms Martin said it was a timely reminder of the extremely dry conditions and that even in moderate weather, fires could start and progress quite quickly.

“Some of the fires in the past week have been started by ride-on mowers, slashers and pumps,” she said. 

“If people are doing these activities, they need to make sure they have water and (firefighting) equipment on hand should a fire start.”

Likewise, she urged farmers to take into account the codes of practice and to ensure water was on-site.

“On Wednesday we are looking at a potential of five fire bans across SA, including Mount Lofty Ranges,” she said.

“People need to make sure if they have conducted any vegetative burns recently, that they check up on them and make sure they are fully extinguished.”

The emergency warning at Birdwood prompted local schools to enact their fire evacuation plans – in the case of Birdwood High School, replacing a planned fire drill this week with the real deal.

“We were just (recently) talking about our evacuation procedures and running a drill this week … our drill has been replaced with a real one,” principal Heather Makris said.

Teachers are generally given the heads up a drill will be run in a prescribed period.

“They were asking ‘this is a real one, isn’t it?’” Ms Makris said.

The students were at lunch when they noticed smoke coming their way.

“We’re quite fortunate that we’ve got some students who are CFS volunteers,” she said.

“Then we had messages come through from the department and CFS … we immediately coordinated with the primary school.

“The students were fantastic; it was the middle of lunch and they (student volunteers and leaders) rounded up all the students, we had the bells going and they knew it was the evacuation procedure and to go to the gymnasium.

“At that time, we let parents know we had enacted our evacuation procedures.”

Ms Makris said she was immensely proud of her student leaders who stepped up to assist staff in making sure students were comfortable and monitoring those which might have first aid requirements.

Despite the evacuation, Ms Makris said students actually left school for the day on time.

“We worked with the Department for Education and CFS in relation to bus routes, two routes were altered as a result,” she said.

“All parents received a message to inform them the buses had departed; as a result, I believe the delay was between two to five minutes from our usual time.

“It was a very well coordinated process and I would like to thank the community for their support.”