Tragedy hits home

SES and CFA volunteers scaled the heights in their efforts to save the Clothier home.

By Kath Gannaway

Warburton CFA volunteers had more to contend with than the 80 candles on former captain Barry Marshall’s birthday cake on Sunday 22 October.
As brigade members prepared to celebrate their longest-serving member’s big day at the station, their pagers went off.
“Seeing my own house address coming up on the pager … as a captain it’s something you would hope never to see, and it hits home when it’s your address,” Warburton brigade Captain Hazel Clothier said of the moment she realised the fire call this time was more than too close to home!
With a virtual strike team of Warburton members, neighbouring brigade members and CFA officials at the station, along with five other local brigades and Upper Yarra SES on the road after a photo-shoot at Yarra Junction, the response was swift.
“It was a fantastic response, and for the family just so lucky that it happened during the day when my husband and children were at home and awake, so they could see and smell what was going on,” Captain Clothier said.
Yellingbo CFA Captain Paul Spinks praised the work of the brigades and the SES, describing the result as “an amazing save with minimal damage”.
“The work by the CFA and the SES together is probably one of the best saves I’ve seen for a long time, just because of the co-ordination,” he said.
The fire started in the roof of the house which has an extremely high pitch and is well-fortified against bushfire.
“Upper Yarra SES volunteers played a pivotal role in working off the roof and removing roof sheets to enable us to get to the seat of the fire,” Captain Spinks said.
Captain Clothier also praised the work of the SES who she said had displayed great skill with rope work on the very steep roof.
On a personal note, Captain Clothier said with her CFA and neighbourhood connections she and her family were surrounded by friends who looked after them.
“I am well aware with the two house fires (at Millgrove) two weeks ago, that we have come off very lightly,” she said.
Two neighbouring families lost their homes and belongings earlier this month.
An electrical fault in wiring in the ceiling has been identified as the cause of the fire.
The incident highlighted the reality for volunteer firefighters that the call can come at any time of the day or night, that family and community celebrations are not immune and that fires, road crashes and other catastrophes often hit very close to home.