Cobargo New Years Eve 2019 and the phone box through the eyes of one of the incident controllers
It was just before 5 am I received a pager to respond to Cobargo as the Badger fire had taken a major run and was about to impact Cobargo. As I left my home behind in Narooma, all you could see was the red glow in the sky.
About 8 km’s north of Cobargo I drove into the fire front with flames of up to 20 metre’s in height. It was in my mind like driving through the gates of hell . At one stage my RFS vehicle was caught in winds that strong that they pushed it sideways – it just lucky it didn’t roll.
As I arrived in Cobargo the fire front was hitting the western side of the town. The first property we needed to save was the Co-Op due to the amount of gas and fuel stored there. We only had a limited number of fire trucks as at that point in time there were other locations on the coast that were being impacted by fire at the same time, or in fear of being impacted. We worked our way down the street the best we could.
The phone box that is now at The National Museum was in front of a public toilet and to the up hillside of a wooden shop that was already on fire at the rear. All we could do was concentrate our efforts on saving the shop next door that had a driveway between them. The plastic roof on the phone box melted from the heat, a hose line was used to cool it down , that’s how I believe the phone box ended up how it looks now.
Our crews spent most of the day trying to save all we could and then began mopping up. I myself spent 17 hours in Cobargo that day, arriving home just before midnight. However there was no joy as the clock ticked over to the new year.
In my 43 years as a Volunteer with the RFS I have never seen fire behaviour like I did in the 2019/2020 fire season and never wish to see it again.