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Australians all know the advice by now: when it comes to the threat of a bushfire, don’t wait and see. Make a plan long before those first flames are visible, and stick to it.
As this dash-cam video below shows, every second matters when it comes to making a safe escape and avoiding being swallowed by a raging firestorm.
Taken just a few weeks ago near the New South Wales coastal city of Shoalhaven, the footage shows Dunmore Rural Fire Brigade crews anticipating the approach of a flame front blasting its way through Currowan state forest.
Tasked with protecting a property ahead of a wind change, the team figured they had some time to prepare. They were wrong. Moments before 7 pm, the strong southerly wind they were all waiting for struck a full 10 minutes earlier than expected.
In moments, daylight vanishes under a pall of smoke and ash, as embers fall like snow. The wind quickly builds to a cyclone-like force, pounding the site with 100 km/h (about 60 mph) gusts.
As a number of brigade members start to retreat, sprays are activated on the remaining vehicle, as the crew protects themselves from the fierce heat. Through the shimmering curtain of water, the peaceful rural setting transforms into a charred hellscape licked by flames.
The devastation is a familiar sight now to many Australians in the south-east parts of the country. But the furious scene of a rapidly moving firestorm like this is something few of us ever have to experience first-hand.
“This goes to show what happens in just over three minutes,” the firefighters write on their Facebook page.
It’s a reminder we should all pay attention to. Three minutes isn’t enough time to come up with a solid plan if you don’t already have one.
Fortunately, it’s the sort of event rural fire services do happen to plan for. And we can only be thankful for that.
“The crew continues for another nine minutes on the ground, bringing a massive positive outcome, with a complete safe crew, protected truck and property saved,” the brigade writes.
“People are reminded to adhere to the warnings when given from the appropriate services, as this is not a pleasant place to be when a fire impacts at any time, especially at short notice. Ensure your bushfire plan is in place.”