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John Egbers

Fantastic save: John Egbers was part of the team that saved the Upper Ferntree Gully and Dandenongs area.

Picture: Wayne Hawkins


Great save on day of terror

WHEN Rowville CFA member John Egbers clocked on at 9am on Black Saturday, he knew it would not be any ordinary day.

Mr Egbers recalls the warning he heard from his captain, that this day would be like "nothing we've ever seen before".

Just after attending a false alarm at the Stud Park shopping centre, around 2pm, one of the crew saw smoke from the Upper Ferntree Gully area.

The smoke was coming from a Quarry Road fire, a blaze which would come dangerously close to claiming lives and property.

"We raced to the job. As we were driving down there we saw the smoke. We got straight on to Quarry Road and got to work putting water on whatever was burning," Mr Egbers said.

He knew the crew had to work quickly, with a wind change predicted for mid to late afternoon. "If we didn't pull it up there and then, it would have gone through the park and that would have been it."

When the wind change did come through, Mr Egbers said, he had never witnessed anything like it.

"The wind came through that strong one of our crew was off balance at the time and it just blew him over.

"You can imagine all the embers coming up from the highway, [and being] covered in sparks and smoke and everything. The fire started to pick up in the quarry again. If it hadn't been for the helicopter we had there, there's a good chance it would have gone into the park." When fighting a fire, Mr Egbers says, it is hard to tell how big it actually is. "You're oblivious to what's happening around you."
Amazingly, no properties or lives were lost, although one car was burnt out and some houses were left with scorch marks.

Mr Egbers said he had seen footage where the fire "went around" a house on Burwood Highway.

"If you look at what could have been, it was a fantastic save. We hit it hard and hit it fast and knocked it down as quick as we could because of its potential."

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