Perth firefighters star in world-first TV documentary series Bushfire Wars on National Geographic

Firefighter in the thick of the Sawyers Valley fire in Bushfire Wars to be screened on National Geographic. Picture: Sea Dog TV International
Firefighter in the thick of the Sawyers Valley fire in Bushfire Wars to be screened on National Geographic. Picture: Sea Dog TV International

IN the Perth Hills easterly winds are screaming in from the hot desert and temperatures are soaring.

An arsonist has lit two fires and the blaze is out of control and threatening Mundaring Weir, a water treatment plant, Pickering Brook, and even the Parks and Wildlife Service Mundaring District Headquarters.

The fastest response is from the air.

Eight fixed-wing water bombers work in conjunction with the ground crews to battle the ferocious fire.

But it is a second much larger fire that needs massive resources, calling in Parks and Wildlife Service crews from two depots, local volunteer brigades and heavy dozers to create breaks on the fire’s flanks.

In a move reminiscent of a military campaign, they plan to join the flanks together in a pincer movement to cut off the head fire from available forest fuels.

This Sawyers Valley fire on February 4 this year features in the first two episodes of a new eight-part series airing on National Geographic next month.

Bushfire Wars follows firefighters from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Parks and Wildlife Service in Western Australia, whose battleground is the biggest in the world, covering millions of square kilometres of forests and bush.

Parks and Wildlife Service Perth Hills district fire operations officer Paul Musarra said in a world first, the series uses specially fire-trained camera crews going into the field alongside firefighters to capture the action.

The landmark series also uses new camera technology with 40 fixed cameras on choppers, planes, bulldozers, four wheel drives and body-cams to give viewers a terrifying and intimate window into a world rarely seen.

“The Sawyers Valley fire was the biggest of the season,” Mr Musarra said. (LUCKY ESCAPE: Bushwalker recounts being caught in Sawyers Valley fire before being rescued by chopper)

Sawyers Valley fire from February this year as featured in Bushfire Wars. Picture: Sea Dog TV International

“This series is the first time cameras have ever been that close to a fire line and the footage is a real in-your-face experience for people to see.

“It shows all the work Parks and Wildlife do to fight a fire, from the strategies and tactics we deploy to how we set ourselves up for a fire.”

Scene from Bushfire Wars. Picture: Sea Dog TV International

Producer and director Leighton De Barros saluted all frontline heroes and acknowledged that for some, fighting a raging inferno was part of their day-to-day job.

“Film is a powerful observational and educational tool and we wanted to depict the action as it happened, from the aerial water bombers to armoured bulldozers to people fighting the fires on foot, there was no better way to do it than to have specially fire-trained crew go into the field alongside the bushfire fighters,” he said.

Chidlow Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade members Andy Brock, Tina Merrybard and Angus Hay. In the background are firefighters from Mt Helena and Wooroloo. Picture: David Baylis d489142

“The state-of-the-art fixed camera technology used in this series revolutionises the story telling.

“It tells an authentic and compelling truth, enabling the audience to feel present in the moment alongside the women and men fighting the bushfires.

“Bushfires leave devastating effects on human life, livestock and property and this series highlights the stresses, efforts and work that go into managing them.”

MORE: Logging company loses equipment worth $1.6 million in Sawyers Valley fire

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Scenes from Bushfire Wars. Pictures: Sea Dog TV International