Five minutes to flee Gidgegannup fire

Shirley and Keith Robinson, of Gidgegannup, seen here at the edge of the fire front that nearly reached their home.Picture: David Baylis        www.communitypix.com.au   d447965
Shirley and Keith Robinson, of Gidgegannup, seen here at the edge of the fire front that nearly reached their home.Picture: David Baylis        www.communitypix.com.au d447965

GRANDMOTHER Shirley Robinson had no idea a fire was raging towards her Gidgegannup home until her fire-fighting granddaughter ran into the house saying “out now!”.

“I didn’t even know there was a fire; within five minutes it was at our back door,” Mrs Robinson said.

Granddaughter Zoe Salt (20) is a firefighter with the East Gidgegannup Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade.

She lives with her mother Carol and brother Jeremy in the second house on the Robinsons’ 32ha block on Toodyay Road.

“I just had time to grab my cat, put her in a cage and off we went. There were fire trucks coming up our driveway as we left. You don’t argue with my granddaughter,” Mrs Robinson said.

Mrs Robinson and her husband Keith took shelter in the Gidgegannup CWA Hall as their granddaughter returned to the fire.

The Murdoch University student continued to battle the blaze the next day.

The fire reported at 12.12pm on Monday continued to smoulder on Wednesday, with aerial appliances dampening down and about 80 firefighters on the ground strengthening containment lines.

“It was pretty harrowing; we’re so grateful to the fire crews and very relieved the two houses were saved,” Mrs Robinson said.

Mrs Robinson said in 53 years there had never been a fire on the block.

“I believe only our two houses were evacuated and we could hear the helicopters over the hall going out and coming back after refuelling at Lake Leschenaultia,” she said.

The Robinsons have lived on the block since 1962. Only two weeks earlier, the couple had about 80 sheep on their block.

Mrs Robinson credited her husband for reducing the risk of fire destroying their life investment by having a bushfire plan.

Apart from reaching the back yard, the fire travelled around the property.

“What saved us was having no high trees around the house; in fact we have no trees in the house yard,” Mrs Robinson said.

“In a place like this it’s just too dangerous and yes, we do have insurance,” Mrs Robinson said.

One shed and a dam water tank were lost on the block.

At the peak of the blaze, more than 100 career and volunteer fireys were at the scene from brigades including Chidlow, Darlington, East Swan and Glen Forrest.

The fire burnt through about 106ha and several roads closed on Tuesday reopened the next day with speed restrictions.

A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesman said the cause of the fire was suspicious and investigations were under way.

“We can’t defend every property and we urge people to have a 20m barrier free of vegetation around their home, and to have a bushfire plan,” he said. To view the Prepare, Act and Survive booklet, visit the DFES website.