Sunday the 19th of October, 2014 gave Tasmania a reminder of the upcoming summer and the potential for fire. Bush fires are very much a part of the Australian landscape, St Helens was made aware and received a salutary reminder of this when a stronger then anticipated wind shift propelled a burn off towards the residences of Stieglitz. An emergency was enacted to combat the out of control situation. With the only road to St Helens Point made inaccessible by the wild fire, resulting in the stranding the residences of Stieglitz and Akaroa, a serious fire emergency was in place.
President JD and the local government emergency response coordinator, Christine Hughes, called upon St Helens Marine Rescue to respond to a call to evacuate residences who had gathered at the community fire safe zone - the Stieglitz boat ramp/jetty. The bay was effectively the only transport route between Stieglitz and St Helens. A crew made up of Ian Hollingsworth, Tony Graside & John Sullivan quickly deployed Break O’ Day, launching at 5:00 pm. Mayor Sarah Schmerl accompanied the crew, a pass by along the beachside area (see photo) to look for evacuees was executed, fortunately no members of the public were stranded. On arrival at the Stieglitz jetty members of the community had gathered. A punt from one of the oyster farms and a local charter operator had also arrived. Evacuations were undertaken at 7:30 pm just as the skies opened up with quenching rain, thus quelling the flames.
After we cleaned up volunteers and evacuees were invited to St Helens Books and Coffee (www.beanhunter.com.au) who had opened its doors to provide a welcomed cuppa and wonderful/yummiest toasted sandwiches.
Whilst this event is a reminder of potential summer fires, St Helens can be proud of its response to this emergency.